Melbourne. Multiple grand-slam winner and former number Maria Sharapova hit out at several of her counteparts at the ongoing Australian Open at Melbourne here today. She had met the press after her 6-1, 6-3 victory over Venus Williams.
“It is high time the WTA did something about the high-decibel levels in the ongoing tournaments”, the Russian player was quoted as saying. “For instance, in last year’s final, I could not concentrate on the way I was playing the game, thanks to the way Victoria Azarenka was grunting loudly during the match” (Last year in the Australian Open Final at Melbourne, Azarenka had beaten Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 in what was a one-sided anti-climatic final).
Sharapova pointed to all her role models and felt that those were the players she grew up viewing, and quoted examples like Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario who never uttered a word to anyone, neither on-court nor off-court. “Even nowadays, when she plays in the Australian Open, there are sections of the crowd who imitate her howling during every match”, she went on to say.
Sharapova also mentioned that she was happy with her performance in the Australian Open, especially since the draw pitted her closest rivals – Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka against each other in the semifinals. “I hope that semi-final would feature a heat-wave followed by a three-setter, with two tie-breakers in the first two sets, and a third set that would overtake the final set of the Mahut-Isner clash” (the third set in the Australian Open does not have any tie-breaker).
“I do not grunt during a tennis match. I only exhale whenever I hit shots, either forehand, backhand or overhead”, she responded, when asked about the frequent allegations of distracting opponents that were levelled against her.
Victoia Azarenka, who was approached for comment, denied all the allegations. “If Maria cannot tolerate the sound I make, then she must just wear ear-plugs. Same goes for Agniezska Radwanska, Sam Stosur and Martina Navratilova”. Azarenka, who calls Monica Seles as her role model, also complained about the TV coverage of her final last year. “Last year, all the cameras were trained on Sharapova. In fact, after all the sounds I made from my side, I was shocked to know that the crowd still loved Maria’s grunts. I was even frisked by the security here since they do not remember I played last year’s final”. So how was she dealing with it? “I took advice from Novak Djokovic. Wherever he plays, he is always supported against, especially when playing against Nadal or Federer”.
However that did not set her back. “I have the confidence that this year, I shall hog the limelight more than Sharapova, grunt or no grunt”. She declined to comment on what is her new strategy “You all have to wait and watch”.