This year, the U.S. Open Semi Finals was a true All-American event with Venus Williams vs. Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys vs. Coco Vandeweghe. Since Serena Williams is out on maternity leave I was rooting for Venus, making her way to the finals at 37 years old. While Venus didn’t win, the finals with Stephens and Keys was a preview of the next generation of tennis players.
But do you know who wasn’t in the semis? Maria Sharapova. Despite the absence of Serena, the cake-walk draw, and the hero’s welcome she received, Maria didn’t make out of the round of 16.
Caroline Wozniacki complained that Sharapova’s matches were all on center court. Wozniacki wondered how Sharapova could get the primetime slots when she was ranked lower than players whose matches were out in Siberia with the sparse crowds to match. People brushed this off as sour grapes from Caroline, who lost early, but she had a point. Sharapova was coming back from a drug suspension. This wasn’t someone working their way back from an injury like Sloane Stephens. She was caught using Meldonium, Latvian-made heart drug that is commonly used in Russia that was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list in 2016 because it is believed to help the body produce energy more efficiently. Sharapova claimed she didn’t know it was on the “do not use list” and got a measly 18 months suspension, serving only 15 of those. And in her first major tournament back, the tennis association rolled out the red carpet.
Instead of being grateful that a typical four-year suspension turned into just 15 months, Sharapova tried to take Taylor Swift’s title for grievance writing. Sharapova decided to write a book (or have someone write the book for her) and go after Serena, who clearly is living rent-free in Sharapova’s head. Let’s set aside the irony in Sharapova titling her book “Unstoppable,” since she’s was obviously stoppable at the 2017 U.S. Open and the many times Serena beat her on the court. Maria goes on to claim that Serena’s “… physical presence is much stronger and bigger than you realize watching TV. She has thick arms and thick legs and is so intimidating and strong.” It’s like reading a quote from Darian Wilson’s testimony about Mike Brown in Ferguson and how he had superhuman strength. It’s not as if Sharapova is petite. She’s 6’2” but plays the fragile Becky card while playing into the stereotype that Serena is built like a man.
All the while, women like Sharapova get a pass because [insert white privilege excuse here]."
The media is a co-conspirator, showing pictures of Sharapova looking determined and Serena as “aggressive.” Sharapova’s screaming on every single play ― even ones where she’s hitting the ball gently ― is billed as sexy and forceful by most analysts, whereas Serena screaming “Come on” to motivate herself is intimidating.
It’s frustrating as a black woman to read nonsense like this from Sharapova. As black women, we have to walk a thin, tight rope; can’t be too passionate or we get labeled the angry black woman, can’t be too passive or we are labeled unmotivated; can’t be too thick or we look like men. It’s enough to make any black woman’s head spin. All the while, women like Sharapova get a pass because [insert white privilege excuse here].
Sharapova goes on to talk about the one time she beat Serena in 2004 as if that’s the loss that haunts Serena. 92 singles finals, 72 wins, 2017 Austrian Open Champion, 2016 Wimbledon Champion, and Maria Sharapova thinks Serena cares about that one time when Maria won 13 years ago? Meldonium is a helluva drug.