A True Champion, Finally

Now that the dust has settled, and now that we are separated from what was a shocking day at the 2007 U.S. Open, it's time to take a look at what Maria Sharapova's loss really demonstrated. There is a famous quote that says that circumstance does not make the man, but rather reveals a man's character. Nothing could be more true here.

Sharapova was supposed to breeze through her half of the draw, and was certain to not be challenged until the final. Every sports writer and tennis fan looked at the 2007 U.S. Open Women's singles draw and could not believe how skewed the top half and bottom half were. The top half turned out to be loaded with current and former major tournament winners, including Justine Henin, Serena and Venus Williams, as well as with current top players Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, and Marion Bartoli. The bottom half had Maria Sharapova, then the next best was Nadia Petrova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. The lower half contained a slew of new and younger players, many of them who have never made it past the first round of any major. Things change quickly.

By the end of Saturday's play, the lower half was wide open. Sharapova had lost a tough three-set match to Agnieza Radwanska of Poland, Nadia Petrova had lost to Agnes Savay of France, and Martina Hingis had fallen to Victoria Azarenka. As Maria walked into the press conference, it was clear she was not having her best day, and was aware of the opportunity that she had just missed. I have never been a huge Sharapova fan, but after this press conference, I became a great fan.

As Sharapova sat in her chair, she did not try to hide her disappointment. She knew the questions that were about to come would not be easy to answer, and that most of them would be looking for reasons and excuses to find why this champion had fallen to such a lower-ranked opponent. I have sat through what seems like thousands of these press conferences and have heard just about every answer there is. Usually, none of them are good, and most are aimed at finding some excuse that absolves the player of the loss. What I heard blew me away.

"She played well, and I lost. No injuries or excuses," said Sharapova.

Wow. No excuses. Said pointedly and graciously. Sharapova gave credit to Radwanska, and then laid the blame solely on herself. She was asked if her previous injuries might have been a factor. Again, she said no.

"Sometimes, you work really hard for something and you get it. Sometimes you don't," said Sharapova.

Wow, again, no excuses. From a player often considered a prima-donna, this was something of a shock. It has become rule rather than the exception on the women's tour to lay blame on some condition or reason other than your own poor play, and to never give credit to the victor. Maria blamed only herself and gave complete credit to Radwanska.

Now it may not seem like much, but since the U.S. Open, you haven't heard anything else from the Sharapova camp, and she seems to have moved on just as she indicated in her post-match press conference. While she lost earlier this month to Victoria Azarenka, and has pulled out of the Zurich and Linz tournaments, she continues to look for a spot in the WTA Tour season-ending championships next month. With the withdrawals, it looks like she may not win a spot, but she will not make excuses. Finally, a champion to look up to.

Athletes today seem to believe that they are more valuable than the sports they play, and that their God-given abilities alone give them the right to be adored and paid highly. Attitude is everywhere, and blame and excuses are found right along with it. Michael Vick "felt bad that he killed those dogs. He is human you know," a direct quote from his lawyer said. Floyd Landis used performance-enhancing drugs. Marion Jones is "sorry for the hurt she has caused." Give me a break. You all lied and made excuses for years.

I'll give Maria my support. She has proven to me, on the world's biggest stage, that she has the qualities of a true transcendent champion. There is still hope...

Comments and Conversation

October 19, 2007


You’ve got to be kidding me!!?? Have you not done your research prior to writing this article? The reason Sharapova couldn’t come up with any excuses was because when the US Open began, she declared to the press that she was 100% fit, injuries were behind her, blah blah blah. If after she lost she then backtracked she would have embarrassed herself. Do your homework next time before YOU embarrass yourself!

October 20, 2007

John Baydon-Stroud:

At last, thankyou! A rational, unbiased article about a great champion, Maria Sharapova, who actually managed to make tennis interesting.
The question must always be asked though, what did actually happen in the Australian Open Final when she lost to Serena Williams? Because that set in motion a negative and downward trend. It really is case of ‘for those with eyes to see’, and for those with eyes to see, Sharapova was robbed and denied in the most unsavoury way.

October 20, 2007


seriousy irene….do you know how many champions are out there who claim to be fit and as soon as they lose, th excuses just start pouring out. “i wasnt feeling well”, “i just wasn’t playing my best toay” and plenty more. maria showed class by admitting that she just got outplayed and that the other player deserved to win

October 20, 2007


Great Article…I totally agree with you on the point that what makes a champion is not who has the least amount of defeats but its how you confront these defeats and move on. Maria is a great example of this!

October 21, 2007


Irene, shut up. You’re the one that should be doing the homework. OBVIOUSLY, you haven’t watched any of the post-match press conferences Maria had recently and particularly the US Open 2007. You’re embarrassing yourself.

And BTW, if you’re looking for someone to accuse of making excuses and whining and just plain a plain sore loser, albeit discreetly. It’s Serena Williams.

It’s funny though that Venus is quite the opposite. Soft-spoken, classy and not to mention her very business-like approach. I’d choose Venus over Serena anyday.

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