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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Maria Sharapova comes to America and wins Wimbledon

On Saturday afternoon, a gorgeous looking Russian seventeen-year-old called Maria Sharapova won the Wimbledon Ladies Singles title, and the media have been in raptures ever since. Personally I was enraptured ever since she won her quarter final against a Japanese lady. But when Sharapova beat Serena Williams in the final, the world really noticed.

When Sharapova plays, she looks like a Bond girl. When she has won, she immediately becomes a giggly American schoolgirl. She is, from the female gorgeousness point of view, the biggest thing in tennis since the now somewhat ageing Anna Kournikova. Plus, she can really play. (Kournikova never won Wimbledon, or anything else big that I recall. Not that I ever cared.)

So, I was not surprised when our very busy-with-other-things but still very caring and concerned editorial supremo asked me last night to dash off a posting about the lovely Maria, so that we could have a picture of her up here.

However, underneath all the drooling from the likes of me and Perry, there is a more serious story here, which is why it took me a bit longer to write this than I promised last night. Yes, Sharapova is gorgeousness personified, and long may it last. But there is more going on than this. I can imagine some Americans regretting that their champion, Serena Williams, got beaten by a Russian. Yet, for all that she is Russian, Maria Sharapova is also as American as Apple Pie. She and her entire family came to America. On the back of betting the farm on young Maria’s talent as a tennis player, her family chose America, and what could be more American than that?

Born in Siberia, the one-time pauper took home over $2.5 million in Wimbledon prize money – but that will be only the beginning of an earnings career that looks likely to make her the wealthiest Russian tennis player in history.

…her father, Yuri Sharapov, who travelled to Florida 10 years ago after leaving Chernobyl with life savings of $1200 in his pocket, will shield his striking daughter from many of the offers, but there is no shortage of suitors.

Sharapova was spotted as a 6-year-old during an exhibition match in Moscow by Martina Navratilova, who took her under her wing, a relationship that earned her a spot in Nick Bollettieri’s prestigious Tennis Academy in Florida at the age of nine.

I had already decided that I was going to tie this story to the similar tale of Martina Navratilova, because Navratilova has a lot in common with Sharapova. Navratilova also went west to find freedom, on the back of her extraordinary tennis talent. A picture of Navratilova is not what Perry de Havilland had in mind when he asked for this posting, yet I feel that it is entirely appropriate. Navratilova found the exact same thing in America that Sharapova has found: freedom. The freedom to develop her amazing talents, and the freedom to be herself.


Now, I agree that when confronted by Martina Navratilova, the Samizdata droolometer behaves very differently to when it is confronted by the likes of Sharapova, especially when you factor in Navratilova’s sexual preferences, but underneath all the joking, the story is very similar.

“I was so stubborn, so independent, that I was more American than Czech, even as a little kid,” she reflects in her autobiography, written in 1985 with New York Times sportswriter George Vecsey. “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.”

I bet Sharapova would say just the exact same thing. Believe it or not, Martina Navratilova actually played again, this year, at Wimbledon, at the age of 47 (but this time really for the last time), eventually losing in the women’s doubles semi-finals.

After Sharapova had won her title, the BBC’s commentators all started clucking anxiously to the effect that, although in itself very sweet and all that, this story might be setting others a bad example. What if dozens of other families bring dozens of other wonder-kids to America, but then the wonder-kids do not win Wimbledon, and what if they are all then disappointed? Don’t risk everything and come to America. What if you fail? What if you don’t live out the American dream? It was all so desperately British. (British national motto: Better safe than American.)

But I cannot for the life of me see that any sort of bad example is being set by Sharapova and her redoubtable clan. The worst that could have happened to them was that they would have become rather poor and disappointed Americans, and the same applies to any others who follow their example and arrive in America with their super-tots but do not do so well as the Sharapova family did. Being a poor and disappointed American is nothing like the worst thing that can happen to you in this world, no matter what the BBC may say.

In the unlikely event that no one has yet done a cartoon of the Statue of Liberty waving a tennis racket, this omission should be corrected at once.

31 comments to Maria Sharapova comes to America and wins Wimbledon

  • It’s not just tennis where this happens. The only “sport” I watch on TV is figure skating, and these days half the Russian skaters are actually from Southern California!

  • dan

    Sharapovna clearly demonstrates that America is an idea as much as a country, and there are a growing number of people around the world who are Americans waiting to happen.

    Of course, I wouldn’t be at all dissappointed to see the more lefty-socialist-statist oriented, ‘geographic Americans’ realize their true cultural identity and immigrate to France, Belgium, or Cuba.

  • I was enraptured during ESPN’s early round broadcasts, and now fear I’ve got a full-blown crush. The comparisons to Anna were inevitable, from a physical perspective. But this girl’s got chops, having won now four tournaments, including Wimbledon. Not only did Kournikova never win a major tournament, she never won a tournament, period.

    This girl is going to be a huge star.

    Welcome to America, Maria. I can sense the British jealousy from here. 🙂

  • Adam

    Also relevent to this category is Monica Seles, who was born in Yugoslavia but is also a naturalized American.

  • Susan

    It’s been my experience that Russians make excellent Americans. For one thing, unlike a great many Mittle Europeans, they really understand the concept of “thinking big.”

  • Bernie

    The BBC whingers were just being true to the underlying philosophy of socialism – that becoming successful is a lottery and there is nothing you can do to improve your odds. It justifies their contempt for success.

  • Brian

    Apparently they agree with Homer Simpson that “trying is the first step towards failure”.

  • Ric Locke

    It’s not Homer’s Observation, just a bit of rather angry puzzlement.

    The United States has been doing things All Wrong for coming up on a quarter millenium. According to all the best British and European theorists, we should be a third-world country racked by racist strife and class warfare. Some of them attempt to cast us in that light.

    What we have actually done, of course, is produce a society in which the most common recognition factor for abject poverty is morbid obesity, and the signature behavior of a famous person is to stand before an audience of thousands with full TV coverage to issue a rant about their free speech being suppressed.

    There is an aphorism to the effect that, with friends and lovers, should one find oneself fully in the right and the other wrong, one should apologize at once. There is nothing quite so insulting as proving another wrong, and the simple survival, let alone the aggressive presence, of American society constitutes daily proof that the Gospel according to St. Karl and the nobility-will-care-for-you model have some serious deficiencies. Hence the nastiness.

    Ms. Sharapova and her family have simply paid attention to the world as it is, rather than the European theoretical model, and gone for the main chance. That’s authentically American, all right, although we do seem to be pissing it away a little at a time. Being more of Kim du Toit’s mind as regards feminine pulchritude than a true appreciator of the Twiggy canon, I don’t find Maria all that wonderfully attractive, though she’s certainly easy to look at. But she and her family are welcome in the U.S., with bells on, and so are the rest of the folk in the world who are willing to toss all the chips in the pot on a pair of nines.

    Ric Locke

  • Pete_London

    Interesting comments, but this is all to miss out on the most pertinent point: that Anna Kournikova looks like Boris Yeltsin.

    Go and have a look. The blond locks and lithe physique mask the fact that her face is like Boris’!

    In fact I am compelled to ask if they are one and the same …

  • Eric Blair

    Not that I particularly follow it, but I don’t think that any Americans who actually like the sport are shedding any tears for the Williams Sisters.

    My experience of such fans is that they’ll take a white Russian over a black American any day of the week.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    A few comments from a tennis point of view, since I run a fan-site:

    1) I think you’re being a bit hard on Kournikova’s tennis career. She had beaten four Top 10 players on her way to the final of the biggest event outside the Slams (Miami, 1998), and reached the Wimbledon semifinal in 1998 before a thumb injury got her off track and eventually led to other injuries. Plus, Kournikova won about everything there was to win in doubles with Martina Hingis.

    2) The only Americans I know who are disappointed that Serena Williams lost are the racemongers. On the tennis fora I inhabit, there’s practically a Cult of Williams. The term “Williams-hater” is routinely used for anything less than adulatory about the Williamses, this “hating” is clearly based on race, and don’t you dare suggest there’s hatred in the opposite direction. Frankly, anything that gets the Cult of Williams’ knickers in a twist is likely to be a good thing.

    3) If you want a naturally good-looking Russian, try Elena Dementieva. Sharapova and Kournikova both look too artificial to me.

  • LoveSupreme

    About two-fifths of pro women tennis players are lesbians. Few care much about attracting men.

    Maria is facially OK and moves gracefully, but it’s by comparison with the boot-faced bulldyke norm that she shines. Plenty of better-looking lasses courtside, but I’m not complaining. (Hingis was a nice exception too.)

    Let’s hope Maria’s continued exposure to the USA sharpens her political nous as much as Martina’s. La Navratilova is one of the most scathing critics of President Chimp on the sporting scene.

  • atlas

    If by “sharpens her political nous” you mean she learns to reject the collectivist crap which infests the Republicrat party and just see both parties for the lying theiving shits they are, then yeah, I agree. I hope she realises they are not much better than the thieves back in Russia. She is far too talented and attractive to waste her time on the acceptable face of protection rackets (party politics) when she should be concentrating on tennis rackets.

  • I am Brian

    The “somewhat ageing Anna Kournikova” is what… half your age?

  • “My experience of such fans is that they’ll take a white Russian over a black American any day of the week.”

    …and your experience of such fans is based upon… what, exactly? Eric, try not to live up to all my expectations of you.

    As far as we’re concerned, Maria IS American — we’re a nation of immigrants, and we’re always ready to welcome people who want to improve their own lives (as opposed to sucking on the State Teat in lives of terminal despair).

    Your silly little slurs are as dust in the wind. Shame on you.

  • Susan

    The Williams sisters lost a lot of fans in the US because of their earlier trash-talking, not because of their race. John McEnroe was never popular here for the same reason.

    However, Serena acted very gracious and classy after her loss (at least in the interviews I saw), so maybe they are finally growing up.

  • Eric Blair

    I guess, Kim, it depends on where you live. As I noted, I heard the remarks. Sort of like all those Jerry (Gerry?) Cooney “Great White Hope” remarks. (I dunno if you remember that). I have heard similar remarks about Tiger Woods.

    Noting that such attitudes exist isn’t the same as endorsing them.

    Of course, it may have been as Susan noted, that people didn’t like the Williams’ style.

    It the end, its a game.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    FWIW, Eric, the only people I hear using the “Great White Hope” analogy are Williams fans who seem to be pissed that a white player could have defeated one of the Williamses. And I don’t just mean about Sharapova; they said the same things three years ago about Justine Hénin-Hardenne. Of course, some of them also claim Chanda Rubin isn’t a “real” black.

  • andursonne

    Yeah, one of the things I heard today at lunch was outrage that a white person could beat a black person in sports. The only racism I’ve heard about this is coming from the non-whtie sector of the population.

    I find it surprising how ‘not muscular’ Sharapova is.

  • mhallex

    She was on one of the morning talk shows today, you wouldnt think it from watching the matches, but the girl is huge. Incredibly tall, towers over everyone near here.

  • John in Tokyo

    Sorry to break the news to everybody but Sharapova insists that she’s Russian, not American. I doubt it’s ideologically driven – perhaps a little ethnic nationalism from her family but I doubt it concerns her or her father’s views on forms of government and taxation.

    That doesn’t mean that what has been said about America and opportunity and idividualism is wrong.

    I just think that the Sharapova story gets a little stretched if you try to use it as a Libertarian parable. Or it might work better with some adjustments. You probably should’ve kept the post limited to talk about cheesecake pics and her abilities at the net or on the baseline.

    By the way, so many tennis greats from the 80’s have either become American citizens (like Ivan Lendl) or live there permanently (Boris Becker).

  • Zevilyn

    Sharapova is Russian by birth. I suppose it’s a bit like when Jessica Lynch said that wherever life takes her, she will always be a West Virginian.

    So, while Sharapova is to a large extent American, the core of her being is Russian. You can’t totally abandon your roots.

    Sharapova is gorgeous; she looks cute with her hair down and is more feminine than most female tennis players.

    And I must admit her grunting puts very adult thoughts into my mind. 😮

  • John: libertarianism is irrelevent and quite why some folks think we actually write about something because it is or is not ‘libertarian’ is beyond me. We just write what we think.

    What Sharapova thinks of herself in terms of nationality is really not relevent at all to the points Brian was making… the story of not just her success but the success of her whole family is the American Dream incarnate. She may well think of herself as Russian, but it was by her parents risking so much and coming to the ‘land of opportunity’ that she gained what she aspired to… Sharapova’s perceptions and ethnic mores are really not the issue.

  • brad

    you people are just INANE….there is clearly a racist tent to your postings….it makes me wonder 1)if you have ANY degree of intelligence – probably not and 2) I don’t believe that it’s 2004 and you’re still talking about race in this light….it makes me ill….i’m not worried about the Williams sisters..they’re not going anywhere, and will easily survive this blond, girl of the moment “dust in the wind” RUSSIAN CHICK…cuz(sic) she ain’t American- no matter how you want to claim her. She even says she’s not Russian. Why do you people have to be so stupidly predictable?…she is your Great White Hope (it’s sad to me that you people still think like that), and you’re celebrating her because she’s blonde and she’s white. period. the media is also celebrating her for that fact- Anna was a testament to that bias. The Williams sisters will easily prevail- Not only because they haven’t had anything just handed to them like these other girls, but they worked much harder to overcome the obstacles and to overcome stereotypes that people like YOU throw at them. Oh, and the guy that wrote the article, he’s just giving in to this bias. and Anna is in her early twenties- and you say she’s aging. Oh, and by the way, aging does not have an E in it!

  • brad’s comments are a spectacular example of seeing only what you want to see. Never mind what a person has actually written, if he wants to see racism then he will see racism. Well, that is his problem.

    To say a person like brad is immune to rational discussion is a masterly understatement as he clearly feel (I will not dignify his views with the word ‘think’) anyone who does not feel the way he does is not intelligent. If he actually cited the bits of what people were saying that is ‘racist’ his declaiming might make more sense.

    Moreover anyone who has actually read the news would understand that the Sharapov family have not had anything ‘just handed to them’, thus rendering brad’s whole secondary thesis not just absurd but in fact hilariously incorrect. His comment, a series of fallacies unrelated to anything anyone said, announced with a frisson of hysteria, is almost beyond parody.

  • This is the best website for all the photographs and information on the new Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova: Born in Russia…fine-tuned in America…adorned in gold at Wimbledon !
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  • naveedkhan

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  • Daniel

    I think Maria sharapova is a great talented Athletic teenager and i dont think she is over rated at all she worked hard from the time she was four years old and she ended up doing really well in womens tennis , she also inspires boys and girls because of her determination.

  • gabriel

    sharapova is the most beautiful women and the most healthy tennisplayer i have ever seen i wish her all the best

  • jason

    no offense but maria is average looking, she is just young and blond. the reason she gets so much attention is because the average female tennis player is not so attractive so by comparison she is considered hot. anna kournikova is way cuter. so combine that all together, young, blond, better looking than the average women playing now and winning you get a wall street darling. based on a european standard of beauty of course.