Though her match style is loud and one-dimensional, she knows how to play up the saltiness and drama that accompany the sport.
She isn’t afraid to take jabs at her opponents and sprinkle her post-match interviews with tantalizing amounts of shade.
Instead, what Sharapova and Williams have is a feud.
And it’s a feud that has captivated tennis fans and sportswriters even when the women’s matches have not.
From 2002 to 2003, when Sharapova was just coming onto the scene, that player was Serena Williams.
Williams had just come off what’s known as the “Serena Slam,” a term she coined herself after she won four consecutive Grand Slam tournaments but not within the same calendar year (the term riffs on “Grand Slam,” which a player achieves when she consecutively sweeps the four annual grand slam tournaments — the Australian Open in January, the French Open in May, Wimbledon in July, and the US Open in August/September — in a single calendar year).
She did go on to win four more Grand Slam tournaments against other opponents, showing that she’s still a very skilled tennis player.
Instead of becoming Williams’s only formidable rival, Sharapova became the subject of a different narrative: Though she could seemingly beat anyone named Serena Williams, whenever the two faced off, people questioned whether she might once again tap into the Wimbledon magic she’d had in 2004.
“In analyzing this, people talk about Serena’s strength, her serve and confidence, how her particular game matches up to my particular game, and, sure there is truth to all of that,” Sharapova writes, revisiting her 2004 Wimbledon upset over Williams, who was favored to win.
To understand the depth of the Sharapova-Williams feud, it’s important to understand that at any given moment, the game of tennis tends to revolve around a single player.
For long stretches in both men’s and women’s tennis, one player has usually become the face of the game.
Those looking for a juicy glimpse into the feud that’s engrossed women’s tennis for years should know that the name “Serena” shows up more than 100 times in Sharapova’s book, including nine times in the prologue alone.
All signs point to Williams being Sharapova’s personal benchmark, idol, and frenemy and the standard that defines her career.