The head-to-head rivalry between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams is fairly one-sided — Williams has won 19-of-21 overall matchups. But an autobiography by Sharapova released today might add some steam to a rivalry that’s almost always been in Williams’ favor.
The book, titled Unstoppable: My Life So Far, addresses Sharapova’s sharp feelings toward Williams. It was released on Tuesday, but the New York Times revealed details after obtaining an advance copy of the book. Sharapova describes first seeing the Williams sisters in-person at the age of 12, and refusing to be starstruck like the rest of the onlookers.
“I’d never put myself in the position of worshiping them, looking up, being a fan,” said Sharapova, who noted she refused to stand like the others when Williams entered the 2002 Wimbledon Champions ball.
The two first played each other in Miami in 2004, with Sharapova describing Williams’ strong and “tall, really tall” stature, even though Sharapova is five inches taller than Williams.
“It was like yes, finally,” Sharapova said. “It felt as if I’d been circling around her for years.”
Sharapova’s first and most important win came against Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final. Sharapova believes this win and subsequent events led Williams to elevate her play in all the matches between them that followed. It wasn’t just that Sharapova won, it’s that the teenager heard Williams become emotional in the locker room afterward.
“Guttural sobs, the sort that make you heave for air, the sort that scares you,” Sharapova wrote. “It went on and on. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there. People often wonder why I have had so much trouble beating Serena; she’s owned me in the past ten years.
“I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon.”
The two players have had public spats in the years since, and Sharapova is also not known as a super popular player on tour. That became evident as she returned to the U.S. Open following a 15-month doping ban, and was criticized by several top players for getting to play on Arthur Ashe Stadium court.
Williams, on the other hand, hasn’t competed since the Australian Open in January, and recently had her first child, a baby girl, during the first week of the U.S. Open.
Williams’ agent, Jill Smoller, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday morning.
“Serena and I should be friends: we love the same thing, we have the same passion,” said Sharapova. “Only a few people in the world know what we know – what it feels like in the dead center of this storm, the fear and anger that drive you, how it is to win and how it is to lose. But we are not friends – not at all.”