Serena Williams and her rival, Maria Sharapova, have taken their on-court animosity off the court, serving verbal aces at each other as they prepare for Wimbledon.
The tournament does not open until Monday, but the two women tennis stars started competition early in a personal war of words that reached new heights between them.
Apparently, it all started when Williams lobbied innuendo about Sharapova’s love life during a phone interview with the Rolling Stone’s Stephen Rodrick. Williams, according to the publication, spoke of “a top-five player” who “wants to be with the guy with a black heart.”
It is widely known that Sharapova is dating one of Williams’ former beaus, so it appeared the comment was targeted at No. 5-ranked Sharapova, 25, and the former boyfriend.
If there was any doubt about the subject of Williams’ blast, it became more clear when she added: “She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’—it’s so boring. She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.”
Sharapova did not take kindly to the remarks, and she showed her fiery side that defies her sweet image.
During a pre-Wimbledon press conference Saturday, Sharapova took to the offense, saying, “At the end of the day, we have a tremendous amount of respect for what we do on the court. I just think (Williams) should be talking about her accomplishments, her achievements, rather than everything else that’s just getting attention and controversy.”
And she was just warming up.
“If she wants to talk about something personal,” Sharapova added, “maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids,” referring to Serena’s rumored relationship with her tennis coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.
“Talk about other things,” Sharapova added, “but not draw attention to other things. She has so much in her life, many positives, and I think that’s what it should be about.”
It is not uncommon for women tennis stars to have animus with each other, perhaps most notably Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. That was in the 1970s and early ’80s, and they never made personal attacks at each other, however. But today’s social media and Internet media surge has heightened the Williams-Sharapova discord to international attention.
It seems off the court is where Sharapova makes her best attacks on Williams, who is the world’s best player who recently took down Sharapova en route to winning the French Open.
From a tennis perspective, Williams has played heads above everyone else. And ironically enough, it is a fear of losing more than the joy of winning that fuels her, she told The Washington Post.
“It’s the biggest factor for me,” she told the newspaper. “Like, if I lose, all hell breaks loose, literally. Literally. I go home, I practice harder, I do more. I don’t like to lose. . . I hate losing more than I love winning. It could be a game of cards–I don’t like it. I really don’t like it.”
Even Sharapova admitted that Williams is the barometer of tennis success.
“Despite . . . me being unsuccessful against (Williams), “ she said, “I’m happy to be setting up changes to go out and face someone who has been dominating tennis for almost a year now.”
It would be quite interesting viewing if Williams and Sharapova face each other in Wimbledon over the next two weeks. Very interesting.