On the eve of Maria Sharapova’s return to the WTA from a thigh injury next week in Stanford, the former No. 1 penned a piece in the Players’ Tribune in which she talked about dealing with the fallout from her doping sentence, her support group, her fans, and her passion for tennis, which she says is stronger than ever.
I’m aware of what many of my peers have said about me, and how critical of me some of them have been in the press. If you’re a human being with a normal, beating heart, you know … I don’t think that sort of thing will ever fully be possible to ignore. And I don’t think it will ever not be weird or hurtful to go through.
But at the same time … I’ve always tried to keep a generous attitude toward critics in general — whoever they are, and whenever they’ve been there. I’ve never wanted to respond to the people trashing me by trashing them back; that’s always been important to me. I’ve always wanted to respond by showing grace — something I learned from my mom, one of the most graceful and elegant people I know. I’ve always wanted to face my critics by simply taking the high road. And by showing them, by showing everyone, that taking the high road is a choice.
And I hope you won’t hold it against me when I say that it wasn’t until I had this time off, and then came back, that I think I really began to understand just what my fan base means to me — not only as an idea, but on a deeper level. On a human level.
And now I feel like it’s my turn, finally, to pay them back. Because if there’s anything that I most would like to accomplish during the next phase of my career, I think it’s this: being a player and a person worth cheering for — for this group of fans who have been so loyal to me.
And who would cheer for me no matter what.
If you love tennis enough, then at the end of the day, it will love you back.
And though these last two years have been tougher — so much tougher — than I ever could have anticipated … my passion for the game has never wavered. If anything, it’s only grown stronger.
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