Normally I don’t write about a player’s personal life but congratulations are in order for Maria Sharapova who along with her longtime boyfriend, Los Angeles Laker Sasha Vujacic, confirmed their engagement yesterday after a year of dating. When TMZ.com, of course, was the first to break the story, many in the tennis world refused to believe it. But after multiple sources confirmed the news, Sharapova, probably to the sad dismay of many men worldwide, will soon join the ranks of those players who are always properly addressed by the chair umpires at Wimbledon as “Mrs.”.
And who knows? Married life could be just the thing to turn around Sharapova’s game.
From Evonne Goolagong, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin (briefly) and many others, married pros on the WTA tour is nothing new. For Sharapova, whose sex symbol status has earned her more money off court than on court, her upcoming marital status might lose her a few male admirers, but I doubt it will be enough to dampen her ability to generate headlines just by walking out in a sleek evening dress for a fashion event or a promotional op. Still at only 23, Sharapova continues to amaze many with her ability to manage her game with her other fashion and marketing ventures and I doubt she will have no problem managing married life as well.
But shutting down her 2010 season early basically due to a lackluster year when many predicted she would win New York after Serena Williams withdrew, 2011 will definitely be the year that could either see the resurgence of Sharapova back into a Grand Slam final and/or the top ten or perhaps the beginning of the end. Sharapova, like Williams, is one of the few players who “knows” they are the best player on a court at any time. But if Sharapova’s game continues to stall whether through injury or lackluster results, I wouldn’t be surprised if she retired early, say at 25. She doesn’t strike me as the sort to be content with hanging around the bottom reaches of the top 20. She certainly doesn’t need the money and if she decides to have kids, I also don’t see her making a comeback like Clijsters either.
Maybe a content personal life could be just the thing to help Sharapova’s game in the same way Clijsters’s family has given the Belgian a new perspective that there’s more to life than a tennis match. Sharapova certainly has nothing to prove, but for the woman who seems to have it all now, including apparently a “ginormous” ring according to TMZ.com, having it all may allow Sharapova the piece of mind to help her through what could be yet another up and down season.
Until then, congratulations Maria and Sasha! And as James La Rosa of the Tennis Channel said if you do decide to have kids, “Your babies will be gigantic.”