A Tale of Two Immigrant Tennis Players: Maria Sharapova and Martina Navratilova
Print Friendly and PDF

A few months back, a reporter asked tennis star Serena Williams what she thought of all the Russian players on the women's tour.

Responded Williams jokingly, "There are at least 50 'ovas' in the top ten."

As the 2005 U.S. Open hits its annual Labor Day peak of excitement, I just want to share with VDARE.COM readers my personal feelings about the richest and most famous "ova" of them all:

I want Maria Sharapova to go back to Siberia!

Critics who have harped that VDARE.COM only criticizes browns, blacks and Asians, take note.

Please, please, please…I want the blonde, blue-eyed 18-year-old Sharapova to take her haughty airs, her cellular phone, her multimillion-dollar endorsements, her insufferable attitude, her boorish father Yuri, her grunting and return her scrawny, pasty-pale self to Russia.

No matter how many fashion magazines the "Ice Queen" adorns, someone should tell Sharapova that the bony look went out forty years ago with Twiggy. What's hot today is zaftig.  [VDARE.COM note: This is not an official VDARE.COM position. Please address comments to Joe directly.]

When she gets back to Russia, Sharapova can load up on bliny or use her fortune to build orphanages. I don't care…I just want her to disappear!

Here are three reasons, in reverse order, I won't be getting on the Sharapova band wagon, thank you very much.

Sharapova is:

  • A whiner. Sharapova, who earns tens of millions of dollars annually playing tennis, complains about the balls! At a recent tournament in Los Angeles, a spoiled Sharapova moaned that the official WTA Tretorn balls are "very heavy on my arm" and are the cause of her shoulder injuries. What's next for these brats?
  • A quitter. In 2005 alone, Sharapova skipped out on the Acura Classic, Toronto's Rogers Cup, and the JP Morgan Chase Open. Fans pay big money to see the name stars. Dropping out for flimsy "injury" related reasons cheats them.
  • An ingrate. Although she has spent more than half her life and has become rich beyond her wildest dreams in the U.S., Sharapova never misses a chance to say, "I am Russian!"

Being proud of your ethnic roots is understandable. But it strikes me—traditionalist that I am—that maybe at least a nod by Sharapova at wanting to become an American citizen would be appropriate. Even Mexican film star Salma Hayek managed that.

Sharapova's insistence that she is "a Russian" is all the more mysterious since she resides in Florida, never visits Russia, refuses to represent Russia in the Fed Cup or play in the Kremlin Cup, and has alienated Russian tennis stars Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Myskina.

Said Kuznetsova about Sharapova,

"I don't know if you would call her Russian though. She is more American then Russian. She speaks Russian with a coarse accent." [Sharapova remains enigma in Russia, Reuters]

And it isn't just the Russian players who don't like Sharapova.

Martina Hingis, a former World Number 1 player and winner of five grand slam titles, called Sharapova, "mean as a snake."

For all I know this may be catty stuff among highly competitive players. But I think it's more than that.

Having been a tennis fan all my life, I can't help comparing Sharapova to the woman who is possibly the greatest female player ever, Martina Navratilova.

For one thing, Navratilova was no quitter. Looking back on her two-decade career, she recalled that:

"I pulled out, I think, three times during a tournament and about three times before a tournament in my whole career."

More importantly is that amidst all the Sharapova hoopla, the media has forgotten that she has scant tennis credentials.

Compare Sharapova's record to Navratilova's.

Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004…and that's it. Last week, she was ranked Number 1…for one week.

Among her other triumphs, Navratilova has 58 grand slam titles—U.S. Open, Wimbledon, French Open and Australian Open— to her credit. During her long career, Navratilova spent 156 consecutive weeks and 331 total weeks as the world's number one player.

Of course, Navratilova accomplished her record over nearly 15 years. Sharapova is just starting out.

But if it's all the same to you, I'd prefer to wait until Sharapova has actually developed a track record before crowning her as the greatest thing going...especially since her skills will never match Navratilova's.

I believe that the more athletic and fit Navratilova with her aggressive net-charging volley game and her left-handed topspin serve would mop the court with Sharapova all day long.

But of most interest is Navratilova's commitment to American ideals versus Sharapova's apparent indifference. Navratilova has been a naturalized citizen since 1981, six years after she defected from Czechoslovakia.

In a 2000 article about Navratilova that appeared on Salon.Com, Steve Kettmann wrote that even as a young girl in her native Prague: 

"Martina in many ways thought of herself as American."

And Kettmann included the following quote from Navratilova's 1985 autobiography, Martina.

"I was so stubborn, so independent, that I was more American than Czech, even as a little kid. I didn't feel I belonged anywhere until I came to America for the first time when I was 16. I'm not a mystic about many things—I tend to be pretty pragmatic about life—but I honestly believe I was born to be American."

Even though Navratilova's phrase—"born to be an American"—has a wonderful ring to it, it never helped her get the million dollar endorsements that have come Sharapova's way. Although she has recently promoted Subaru, Navratilova's bisexuality excluded her from the big money during the peak of her career.

Navratilova, now 49, is still playing competitive tennis. With her partner Leander Paes of India, Navratilova is seeded seventh in the U.S. Open Mixed Doubles.

On the draw sheet, her name reads: MARTINA NAVRATILOVA-U.S.

When it comes to the important things in life, like love of country, Navratilova will always be a bigger star than Sharapova.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.

Print Friendly and PDF