Maria Sharapova’s memoir opens with the lines, “at some point toward the end of the 2016 Australian Open, a nurse asked me to pee in a cup.” The rest is history, writes John Pinto.
Memoirs have the capacity to take us readers on exhilarating rides. They captivate us with perspectives, and divulging thoughts hidden in the abyss of the author’s mind, unknown to the outside world.
Have you ever wondered what thoughts does an athlete bear? An athlete’s life isn’t only about victories, fame, money, and fan following. They too have their fair share of struggles, comebacks, and worldly problems. Maria Sharapova’s ‘Unstoppable’ is a far cry from other sports memoirs I have read in recent times.
In the epigraph to her book, Sharapova quotes Nelson Mandela’s famous words:“Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Every sports fan out in the world knows the greatest misstep of Sharapova. She was tested positive for ‘Meldonium’ a banned substance which she had been taking for medical reasons since 2006. The drug was recently added in the banned list in 2015, which she failed to notice. Her negligence cost her a 15-month ban from the sport.
In the first line of the prologue in her book she quotes, “at some point toward the end of the 2016 Australian Open, a nurse asked me to pee in a cup.” The rest is history.
As the subtitle quotes, the book is about Sharapova’s Life so far and is penned with the help of journalist Rich Cohen. While most of the book showcases her life before the advent of the fateful event of her ban from Tennis, the last few chapters delve deep into that misadventure.
The book is not only a Horatio-Alger tale of rag-to-riches but she writes “it’s also just the story of a girl and her father and their crazy adventure.” The athlete who was born immediately after her parents moved from Gomel following the Chernobyl incident to Black Sea coast city of Sochi. From there life takes Sharapova and her resolute father Yuri to America on a roller coaster ride to pursue her tennis dreams with only $700.
She reveal anecdotes from her early life, her practices at the tennis academies (she mentions Nick Bollettieri’s academy a ‘tennis prison’), her thoughts on other players, her father’s adventure in landing a job and his struggles without knowing English, her shoulder injury and her sudden rise to fame all along the book, which makes this memoir a compelling read.
Her thoughts on the Williams sisters, especially Serena Williams and their never-ending feud is an unexpected ace to the readers providing a glimpse into one of the most famous rivalries of tennis. Also, her grit and act of distancing herself from other players reveal a whole new Sharapova to us rather than the five-time Grand-slam Champion, the glamorous spokeswoman of luxury products and the highest paid athlete in the world as we all know. Her insight into the tour life describing her strength and weaknesses is very impressive.
The words minced by her make us understand her feelings behind those days where she had been written off by detractors as an ageing athlete who wouldn’t reign again in the lawn. It was shocking to even know that she had planned this memoir to be released around 2016 US Open where she had thoughts of bidding adieu to the game she had been playing since the age of four but misadventure knocked her doorsteps before that could ever happen. She has begun to reappear in tournaments winning The Tianjin Open 2017, her first title since 2015. The memoir is a bit deeper reflecting the grit and determination of a small kid from Russia reigning all over the world, changing her world altogether with her perseverance and resilience.
The journey which made her chase her dream all over the world to different cities and to beat the best of the players in the court is still in process and I wish she make her stand once again dominating the court with the same grunt, powerful aces and continue her bravado like she states at the end of her memoir “Until they take down the nets, Until they burn my racket.”
John Pinto is an Engineering graduate from Chennai. He is aspiring to become a civil servant. John is an avid reader of books and an occasional writer. He blogs at http://www.musingsofjonty.wordpress.com.