Thursday, October 21, 2010

What’s in the future for Mrs. Vujacic?

Feb 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic (18) during the game against the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center. The Lakers defeated the Warriors 104-94. Photo via Newscom

So Sasha Vujacic has quietly put a ring on it, one short year after courting the gazillionaire. I hear that the diamond is ginormous. I read that he recently suffered a concussion when someone struck him accidentally with an elbow, so I certainly hope that he was of sound mind when he asked Maria Sharapova to become his wife. But my real interest in this is what it will mean for tennis. Will Sharapova be able to remain single-mindedly focused on her sport? Or will love and marriage become major distractions?

I'm not knocking Maria. I have personally benefitted from such a distraction. I can’t tell you her name of course, but there once was a girl in my high school who was so naturally bright, so insanely gifted and talented and brilliant that she left the rest of us in the shade. Whenever we did French dictées for example, Linda (not her real name) would produce effortless translations while the rest of us slaved over dictionaries and sweated bullets to come up with the turns of phrase that would make Mam'selle Benet satisfied.

We were all distant seconds to the brilliance that was Linda. Heck we were not even in the same orbit. And she was such a naturally sweet and shy girl that none of us resented her. On the contrary, we were collectively proud of our class brain. She was the person we could count on to come up with the answers when we were in a pinch.

And then, a few weeks into our senior year, Linda fell in love. Did I mention that she was of Chinese descent, her parents hard-working immigrants who ran a restaurant so that they could send their daughter to the best school? Where the rest of us enjoyed some freedom to date, to flirt, and to socialize, at least on weekends, Linda had to help out in the restaurant or keep her nose in a book. She literally never came out to play. The result was that while most of us had already had a heartbreak or two by our senior year and were ready to refocus on getting into the best colleges possible, Linda was in the throes of first love.

The boy in question was of East Indian descent. I remember him being a tall gawky teenager. I remember their public pretenses of not knowing each other, no doubt because her strict parents would not have allowed the relationship. Of course such secret love is intoxicating. In class Linda started spending her time doodling her name intertwined with his in the columns of her French translations. She still produced good work, but it wasn’t the same. She wasn’t focused. She was instead blissfully in love.

In time she started cutting classes, missing school to be with her love. We would run into them hiding in the oddest of places in town. She started looking as if she was no longer living on the same planet as the rest of us. She became secretive, cunning, full of guile. Her school work floundered. And then she quit school altogether. To this day, I have no idea what became of her. A rumor started that her parents had sent her back to China after they got wind of her secret romance. I never found out if this was true.

What I do know is that I personally benefitted from Linda’s lack of focus. I ended up winning all of the competitive merit-based scholarships that she would have won. I am not selling myself short here. I’m simply acknowledging the truth that sometimes when the best cannot perform, others benefit.

Take Caroline Wozniacki, for example. She is currently the #1 player in the world because Serena has quit playing tennis. Mind you, Serena is # 2 after earning 6855 points playing only 13 tournaments, while Caroline is #1 with 7675 points after playing 23 events. It is crystal clear who the better player is. But since the better player has lost focus and is frankly more interested in cleaning people’s feet, the also-ran has ascended to the top.

So the point of this article is not to knock Maria Sharapova for being in love. On the contrary, I am happy for her that she has found a sweetheart with whom she plans to tie the knot. And Vujacic, at age 26, is a decent shooting guard for the LA Lakers. Born in Slovenia of Serbian parentage, like Sharapova, he has known some sporting success since his junior days. His career earnings don’t come close to Sharapova’s of course, but at 6 feet 7 inches, he more than matches her in height. And while he’s not the most handsome baller out there, he seems cute enough that their children shouldn’t frighten people.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. After all, I have no evidence that Maria plans to quit playing tennis so that she can pop out some babies. And I certainly hope that Nike thought to include a No Baby clause in that disastrous (in my opinion) deal that they co-signed, making her the highest paid mostly injured player in tennis. Because between you, me, and the net, I suspect that they haven’t half begun to recoup their losses. Which is why, if I were Nike, I would be a bit worried about whether Maria will really be able to remain focused on tennis. It’s not as if love gives you advanced notice.

1 comment:

TennisAce said...

TC,you missed the whole point in this article sweetie. The narrative that will be written when Sharapova eventually gets married is the one that is currently being written for Clijsters. Married, kids and still able to beat up the competition. She shall remain focused despite all of this.

I have been saying it for a few months now that Sharapova is no longer as invested in tennis as much as tennis and indeed tennis commentators are invested in her. They still see her as the woman who will wrest control of the Tour from these also rans and who with her aggressive game, beauty etc will be able to take the Tour to new heights. That is not happening. Not from what I am seeing.

The minute Sharapova's father no longer travelled with her as coach or indeed even spends time with her on the practice courts is the minute I knew that the focus was no longer in tennis. Why beat yourself up in a sport where no matter what your rankings is commentators, advertisers and sponsors are still fawning over you?

The double standard that engulfs this sport makes me shake my head at times.