No doubt over the coming years the Russian will continue adding to her luck. But our view of her will never be quite the same after her failed narcotics test
The sweat of the dames singles final was still drying on the honied scalp of Maria Sharapova as a handful of reporters were ushered into a room the size of a broom cupboard to satisfy the new champion. There wasnt even enough space to sit down. She was 17 years old and at the end of our allotted few minutes one of us asked how she planned to expend the prize money.
Well, she said carefully, the thing shed like most would be a Porsche Cayenne. She seemed to have given the matter some believe, even though she wasnt yet old enough to drive unaccompanied on the roads around her Florida home.
Within 10 years of that sunlit Wimbledon afternoon in 2004 she would become a brand diplomat for the German carmaker, appearing in its advertisings at the wheel of vehicles that were once considered the four-wheeled expres of masculinity. This week, however, Porsche joined the chorus of sponsors announcing that they were suspending or not renewing its partnership with the Russian. There is a certain irony given the fact that the announcement of the end of a prime example of high-end feminism came on International Womens Day.
At Wimbledon in 2004 the teen gave another striking response to a question posed after her semi-final. She had expended the night before the match working on a sociology essay, she said, inspiring someone to ask if it took her mind off the task ahead. No, she said without hesitation, thats not how it works. When I do one thing, I concentrate on that thing. When I do the other thing, I concentrate on that.
The ability to compartmentalise her obligations must have been of enormous benefit as she navigated her route through her career on and off the court. She was always punctual, always businesslike, always focused on the task at hand, whether it be trying to beat Serena Williams or promoting Swiss watches. Which induces it all the more surprising that she should have failed to open any of the five official emails advising her that the heart medication called meldonium or mildronate, as she knew it had been placed on the athletes banned listing.
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