Clenched fist, true grit: there will never be another Maria Sharapova.
One of only seven women to win all four majors at least once in the Open era, Sharapova’s retirement due to injuries not only robs tennis of one of its the fiercest competitors but also of one of the world’s most recognizable female athletes who transcended her sport and opened tennis up to new markets.
One of the most ferocious baseliners in the women’s game, with a game built around aggressive ground strokes and mental strength, Sharapova won 36 career titles, including five majors, an Olympic silver medal, held the No. 1 ranking for 21 weeks and amassed $38 million in prize money.
But after 28 years of playing tennis, Sharapova’s body can no longer deal with competing at the highest level, she told the New York Times in an interview this week.
One of Sharapova’s biggest assets was her never-say-die attitude, laser-like focus and work ethic, both on and off the court, which has inspired generations of young tennis players.
“She’s great fighter. As dedicated as someone can really be in our sport,” top-ranked Novak Djokovic told reporters in Dubai after he heard the news.
“Maria, you inspired millions of people with your passion for the game and we thank you for that,” rising Russian star Karen Khachanov wrote on Twitter. “You have set an example for everybody in many ways. Humble, determined and a true champion.
Just 17, Sharapova had become a global star virtually overnight when she defeated then two-time champion Serena Williams of the U.S. in the finals of Wimbledon in 2004. A year later, Sharapova rose to the No. 1 ranking, the first woman from Russia to do so.
Her defeat of Serena Williams on Centre Court turned Sharapova into one of the world’s most famous sportswomen, who would end up rewriting the rules about sports marketing and female athletes. She amassed more than $325 million in earnings, both on and off the court, during her career, according to Forbes.
“From the day Maria Sharapova won her first Wimbledon at age 17, she has been a great champion,” WTA Tour co-founder Billie Jean King, who first met the Russian when she was 13, said on Twitter. “A 5x major champion and a former World No. 1, her business success is just as impressive as her tennis achievements.”
Guided by her long-time agent at management agency IMG, Max Eisenbud, Sharapova became a global fashion and style icon, whose business empire not only included a string of endorsements with blue-chip companies including Tag Heuer, Porsche, Evian and Avon but also a successful candy and chocolate line founded in 2012, Sugarpova. She was ranked as the world’s top-paid female athlete for 11 straight years by Forbes.
Mastering the slow red clay of Roland-Garros in 2012 and 2014, where she once famously compared herself to “a cow on ice” was perhaps her greatest achievement on a tennis court. Her first French Open victory came three years after a potentially career-ending shoulder injury which required surgery on a torn rotator cuff.
Sharapova’s rise to the top having escaped the aftermath of a nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union was nothing short of remarkable.
Sharapova was born 19 April, 1987 in Nyagan, western Siberia, not long after her parents, Yuri and Yelena, moved to the remote oil town from their hometown of Gomel, Belarus to escape the fall-out from the nearby Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Two years later, the family moved to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Sharapova started playing tennis at the age of four.
Eighteen-time major winner Martina Navratilova spotted the talented Maria a year later at an event in Moscow, and advised her father to move the family to the U.S.
This was easier said than done. Maria and Yuri moved to the U.S. in 1994, but had to leave Yelena behind for two years because of visa restriction issues and lack of money. But Maria was only seven years old, and deemed too young to start training at a tennis academy. For the next two years, her father worked low-paid jobs in construction to pay for her coaching. When Maria was nine, the family were finally reunited and she earned a $30,000 scholarship to train at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida.
Eight years later, she won the Wimbledon title.
Although Sharapova would also beat Williams at the 2004 WTA Finals, her rivalry with the now 23-time major singles winner was lopsided, with the former top-ranked American taking 20 matches in a row after that year.
The legacy Sharapova leaves behind is in some ways an unfinished one. Struggling with a shoulder injury and inflammation in both forearms, Sharapova told the New York Times she had been in pain for much of the past two years, as she made a comeback to tennis following a 15-month ban for taking the banned substance meldonium in 2016.
Her body left her unable to reach the same heights as before her shock admission in March 2016 that she had failed a doping test after failing to notice the drug in question had been banned at the start of that year by the World Anti-Doping Agency. An initial two-year ban was eventually reduced to 15 months, with the highest sports court, CAS, saying the former world No. 1 wasn’t an “intentional doper.”
Ironically, the doping ban would in fact end up extending Sharapova’s career by a few more years.
“If (the suspension) didn’t happen, this probably would have been her last year,” IMG’s Eisenbud told CNN in a phone interview in 2017.
Before the doping suspension, Sharapova had been struggling with multiple injuries. “Her body was in bad shape,” Eisenbud said.
Although Eisenbud had been planning for Sharapova’s retirement for years, with the Sugarpova brand and other deals in place for when her career would eventually finish, and a stint at Harvard Business School and an internship at the NBA during her ban, no longer being a professional tennis player may take some getting used to.
When asked if closing a business deal was similar to winning and competing for major tennis titles, Sharapova said in an interview in 2018: “Everything that you put into it previously, you have to pour out onto the court, every fear that you’ve faced before, you have to bring out onto the court. You have to be powerful, but yet you have to handle being vulnerable at moments when things don’t go your way.
That, I don’t know if I will ever have that feeling when I am being a businesswoman, because it is just an experience that is so unique, and that’s why I still continue to do this, because I have that passion of figuring things out and getting it done, whether it’s a tough day, or whether it’s a great day.”
In an exclusive essay announcing her retirement for Vogue and Vanity Fair, Sharapova said: “Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible. After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain—to compete on a different type of terrain.”
Scarlett Johansson is famous for her role in the MCU, but there are numerous DC characters she’d be great as now that Black Widow’s run is over.
Scarlett Johansson was a bonafide A-lister before she joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, her role as Black Widow cemented her as one of cinema’s ultimate movie stars and turned her into the highest-grossing actress in Hollywood history, according to Variety.
Black Widow died during Avengers: Endgame, effectively ending Johansson’s tenure in the MCU. And now that she’s free to pursue other roles, she might consider a stint at Marvel’s darker counterpart, the DCEU. After all, there are several DC characters she’d be perfect for, and fans would surely love to see her in the gloom of the DCEU.
Fans have wanted to see Poison Ivy in the DCEU for years, but her appearance doesn’t seem to be any closer. At this rate, Robert Pattinson’s Batman might get to fight Poison Ivy before the Mistress of Plants gets to join Harley and Catwoman as the DCEU’s Gotham City Sirens.
Should Ivy join the DCEU, Johansson would be a good albeit safe choice to play her, and fans would also greatly enjoy seeing her romancing Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. However, an LGBTQ+ actress might be a better choice for the role, so while Johansson would be a perfect fit superficially, Ivy might be better elsewhere.
Starfire is best-known as the de-facto leader of the Teen Titans; even as an adult, her connection to the Titans is indelible. The princess of Tamaran has a long history in DC Comics, becoming one of the best-known yet weirdly underrated characters in the canon. Starfire’s troubled relationship with Nightwing is another crucial part of her characterization.
Most adaptations traditionally portray Starfire as a teenager, but there are several instances where the character appears as an adult. Should the DCEU choose to go adult with Starfire, Johansson would be the perfect choice to bring her to life. The lack of a Nightwing in the DCEU would also allow Starfire to exist outside the relationship, thus opening the door for a deeper exploration of her character.
On the other hand, Johansson might go the villain route and opt for an antagonistic role in the DCEU. Blackfire, Starfire’s evil sister, often acts as a minor villain of the Teen Titans. However, her storyline is interesting enough to warrant a more layered approach in live-action.
Some of Scarlett Johansson’s best movies involve her portraying femme fatales, especially during the early years of her career. Blackfire would be a return to those types of roles, and Johannsson would excel in it. Playing an antagonist would also mean Johansson wouldn’t have to commit to another long-term engagement, and Blackfire’s raven hair would help separate her from Johansson’s previous comic book role.
Several characters have assumed the Killer Frost moniker over the years, with Crystal Frost becoming the first incarnation. The Caitlin Snow version became notorious following the success of the long-running The Flashseries, in which she’s one of the main characters. However, Louise Lincoln might be the best version, with a rich backstory that would easily translate to the big screen.
Killer Frost is best known for her association with the Suicide Squad. Johansson joining James Gunn’s corner of the DC Universe would be a dream come true, and both would probably go all-in with Killer Frost’s ruthlessness, turning her into a dangerous yet alluring foe.
And speaking of ruthless members of the Suicide Squad, Enchantress is another name that comes to mind. One of DC’s most powerful and dangerous magic beings, Enchantress struggles to maintain her humanity while dealing with the dark personality of The Succubus, the being that grants her magical powers.
Enchantress already appeared in the DCEU, played by Cara Delevigne, but the less said about David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, the better. Hardly anyone would be sorry to see Delevingne recast, especially if someone like Scarlett Johansson took over the role. Johansson could perfectly embody the Enchantress’ antihero traits, breathing new life into the character.
Baroness Paula Von Gunther
Despite being Wonder Woman’s first recurring foe, Baroness Paul Von Gunther remains largely unknown to mainstream audiences. A cold-blooded and ruthless Nazi mastermind, Paula would eventually become the vessel of the demonic entity known as Dark Angel.
Unlike other comic book heroes and villains, the Superwoman doesn’t have a specific civilian identity; instead, multiple characters have used the moniker over the years, friends and foes alike. However, the most intriguing might be the one that’s a member of the Crime Syndicate of America and acts as an evil counterpart for Wonder Woman.
Multiverse stories are all the rage right now, and while DC’s version is still a year away, there’s always room for more. The third Wonder Woman film could feature Superwoman as the villain, and who better to bring her to life than Johansson? The actress has the physicality and the acting chops to do the character justice.
The villain in the third Wonder Woman needs to be strong and intimidating enough to make her a real threat, and what’s more menacing than a rampaging giantess? Johansson would sink her teeth into the camp aspect of the role, creating an unforgettable rogue that would be equal parts menacing and fun.
The second Star Sapphire, Carol Ferris, was one of the best characters introduced during the silver age of comics. She served as Hal Jordan’s love interest before becoming the Star Sapphire, a villainous entity that battled her former lover. Ferris would later become an anti-hero and occasional heroine, and the Star Sapphire name would be shared by several women, much like the Green Lantern moniker.
Circe is arguably Wonder Woman’s archenemy. Based on the Greek mythological figure, DC comics depict Circe as a stunningly beautiful woman with considerable magical powers, a massive ego, and a penchant for turning humans into animals. Even so, Circe is not all bad, and she’s one of the most prominent DC characters that go from friend to foe and back.
The third Wonder Woman couldn’t fail with Circe as the villain. She’s deliciously wicked, the kind of villain that would contrast perfectly with Diana’s kindness. Johansson would be brilliant as Circe, capturing the character’s malevolence perfectly. It would be the definition of perfect casting.
Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal thinks his ability to adapt his game has been one of the biggest reason behind his early success in 2022. Nadal, who played just one event in the second part of the 2021 season due to a foot injury, is having a stunning comeback to tennis.
Nadal is 15-0 in 2022 as he has claimed titles at the Melbourne Summer Set, Australian Open and Acapulco. Nadal will be 36 in a few months but he is still a dominant force and absolutely one of the best players on the Tour.
“I have always been able to find a way to adapt my game when I have needed to become better,” Nadal said in his pre-tournament press conference in Indian Wells. “Some days I have played aggressively, some days I have played a little more defensively and more tactically.
“My serve has been working well, which is important at this stage in my career. Then I think I have been brave enough to play with the right determination when needed. I am just working hard to continue to improve, but I am happy with the level of tennis and intensity I am showing on court”.
Nadal aims a fourth Indian Wells title
Nadal captured his first Indian Wells title in 2007, while his second Indian Wells title came two years later. Nadal’s hasn’t enjoyed a victorious run in Indian Wells ever since he defeated Juan Martin del Potro in the 2013 Indian Wells final.
Nadal is back to playing an outstanding tennis and he arrived to Indian Wells among top favorites for the title. Nadal’s big rival, Novak Djokovic, wasn’t allowed to enter the United States. Nadal took the advantage of Djokovic’s absence from the Australian Open and collected a record 21st Grand Slam title. It remains to be seen if Nadal can continue his outstanding season and win Indian Wells.
The 21-time Major winner Rafael Nadal is preparing for his 18th Roland Garros. The season’s second Major starts next week, and Rafa is back on the practice court at home in Mallorca, doing his best to recover from a foot injust and stand a chance in Paris.
Nadal has won 13 of the previous 17 Roland Garros titles, experiencing only three losses at his beloved tournament and hoping to regain the title he lost to Novak Djokovic a year ago. Rafa missed the second part of the 2021 season due to a foot injury, experiencing it in the Roland Garros semi-final against Novak and playing two more matches by the end of the season.
Like many times before, Nadal made a perfect comeback and scored 20 wins from the opening 20 encounters in 2022.
Rafael Nadal is back on the court following the latest setback in Rome.
Rafa secured the 21st Major crown at the Australian Open to write history books and remained undefeated until the Indian Wells final.
Struggling with a rib injury, the Spaniard missed six weeks and skipped his favorite tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. The king of clay returned to action in Madrid and Rome, and he failed to deliver his best tennis.
Rafa won two matches in Madrid before losing to a young gun Carlos Alcaraz in three sets in the quarter-final. Hoping for a better run in Rome, Nadal toppled John Isner before experiencing a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 loss to Denis Shapovalov in two hours and 37 minutes.
Rafa barely finished the match without retiring, struggling with foot pain since the middle of the second set and standing no chance in the decider. With dark clouds gathered over his Roland Garros preparations, Nadal hit the practice court on Monday and will travel to Paris on Wednesday alongside his doctor.
Rafa has been the dominant figure in Paris since making a debut at 18 in 2005, winning the title in his first visit and becoming the last teenager with a Major crown. Nadal claimed nine out of ten Roland Garros titles between 2005 and 2014 and became the most successful player at a single Major in history.
After two poor runs in 2015 and 2016, Nadal restored the order and secured four more titles between 2017 and 2020 to extend his tally to 13! Seeking the 14th Parisian Major last June, Rafa lost an epic semi-final to Novak Djokovic in over four hours.
The Novak Djokovic Foundation continues to impact the lives of people in Serbia as the world No. 1 and his wife Jelena have been very active during this year’s Season of Giving. Djokovic and his wife Jelena have been raising funds for the opening of a new preschool in Nis, Serbia.
The Novak Djokovic Foundation has the goal of making preschool available to all Serbian children in the next 10 years. “This and the previous year have further demonstrated how important it is for children to attend preschool, particularly in a situation when parents are forced to work from home, and are not able to adequately dedicate their time to children.
However, it should not be forgotten that there are still those who are not able to go to preschool, even in normal circumstances,” Jelena said, per Tennis Up To Date,
The Djokovic family determined to help Nis
“Nis is a lovely city with unique culture whose citizens have been recognized both domestically and abroad.
We have great memories from this city and we are happy that, this Season of Giving, we are raising funds for a new preschool there, thus enabling children and their families to dream big. Reconstructing the old building of the local community and turning it into a beautiful, modern preschool will give 100 children an opportunity to get the best possible start in life and it will also help their parents to have more time for themselves and their careers.
With love and light, we thank you for your support. Let’s go together for another victory,” Jelena added. Meanwhile, Djokovic kicked off his preparation for the 2022 season in Belgrade. Djokovic signed up to play the ATP Cup and Australian Open but there is no guarantee that the Serb will indeed play at Melbourne Park.