It had been several years since I went to a professional tennis match. The last time I went, Stefan Edberg was still playing.
On the spur of the moment, I took the long drive out to Amagansett, Long Island yesterday, to wach the Delaware Smash take on the New York Hamptons. And even though it took me 2 hours to drive out there, I still got there plenty early. The place was nearly empty. I bought my $30 Lodge ticket and looked around for a friend that never showed. Then I started to browse around the Amagansett East Side Tennis Club.
Then I went to the patio to relax. And low and behold a couple of tennis players started milling around. And then out of the blue, comes Maria Sharapova in a white t-shirt, red shorts and baby blue Nike sneakers. Then she disapperared for a few minutes. I went out to my car to get my Sharpie magic marker, just in case she signs autographs. So I go back to the patio and wait.
And she she comes again. With all the terrible publicity about tennis fans recently, I was worried about making sure I approached Maria in the right way, and not alarming or startling her. I was probably about 15 feet away from her when I politely asked her if she could sign something for me. She smiled and said something. I was nervous. So I can't really remember what she said. But I assume it was "yes". And when Maria smiled, she had the aura of a movie star!
In fact, when I saw her yesterday by the patio walking towards me, this Russian reminded me of a typical Florida or California girl with a tan!
I hoped to get Maria to sign an autograph for a good friend of mine in Vancouver. WTA World knows her as Sharky (Sue). So I had printed up a couple photos of Maria from the internet, just in case I ran into her. I had the photos in a manila folder. And I showed her the first one. She was very nice and seemed interested in the photos!
So she signed a couple. Then to my astonishment, Maria asked me if she could keep one of the photos!
I told her that was my favorite photo of her. But she wanted it. So how could I say nyet to her? I couldn't. Then I remembered to ask Maria to personalize an autograph for Sue (Sharky). And she did. "To Sue, Best Wishes, Maria Sharapova". But I was a little flustered at her wanting one of the photos, causing my train of thought to be de-railed! So I forgot to ask her to personalize an autograph for me! LOL! But not Sue! Then while Maria was on her way to the practice court about 100 yards away, she asked me where I got the photo. I told her Kournikovadotcom.com. The beautiful photo Maria took is located at http://www.kournikovadotcom.com/mtp-...apova-029.html
While Maria was signing, I asked her how she was doing. She said fine. But I could tell she was very tired. She nearly fell into me walking on the lumpy gravel! And Maria played like she was tired. She showed flashes of brilliance and devastaing shotmaking ability! But the fatigue kicked in. Maria, who plays for the Delaware Smash, lost alot of tough games to Katarina Srebotnik of the New York Hamptons. Maria was just in London for the Wimbledon Girls final on sunday July 7th. Then she flew to delaware to play the WTT opener for the Delaware Smash on July 9th. Then she was playing in Hartford on July 10th. And Amagansett, Long island on July 11th. It's no wonder Maria is so tired. That schedule would even be tough for Superman!
I hope Maria can get a couple of days off very soon. I only hope she stays injury free!
I took some photos of Maria practicing and playing, too. And one of Patrick McEnroe as well. But I'm a stiff with a Camera. Especially this Samsung EX! camera. It seems complicated. I only hope I got a few good photos.
The atmosphere at World Team Tennis is alot of fun. And noisey, too!
In a day an age of ego maniacal self centered athletes, it was an absolute pleasure meeting Maria Sharapova. Maria took the time to make me feel special! She was gracious and nice!
I'm glad I took the time to go out to Amagansett. This was probably the only time I'll get to see or Maria in a low key setting. I doubt she will play WTT next year. And I don't think there are any Challengers in the New York area that Maria will play.
After Maria went to warm up, I didn't want to follow her. So I climbed up the bleachers and started talking to a man I thought was a New York Hamptons or WTT. It turns out he was Maria Sharapova's IMG agent, Max Eisenbud. He was very nice. And to my surprise we had about an hour long conversation.
Max reads WTA World and knows who the cat and Sharky are!
He remembers a couple of threads about Maria Sharapova, her citizenship and the USTA. If i recall correctly I started those threads!
Max said he thinks Maria will remain a Russian citizen.
And here are a few other tidbits of information Max gave me.
- The big scoop which no one is supposed to know about, is that Maria will take a Wild Card at the tournamnent in japan, shortly after the U.S. Open.
- Maria will be done with the juniors after the junior U.S. open.
- Maria will not play the Ladies Kremlin Cup this year because she is not ready to play the big girls indoors.
- Max thought Maria Kirilenko was a fighter and a great shotmaker. He said she could be a great player someday.
- He said Maria went to the Wimbledon's Champions Ball, even thouhgt she was beaten in the final. But there was no dancing at the Ball!
I thought that was a tradition!
- He also seemed unsure when I asked him about Maria playing on the Russian Fed Cup team in the future. But he seemed more positive about Maria wanting to play on the Russian Tennis Olympic team. But I doubt she would be put on the Olympic team if she doesn't play Fed Cup for Russia.
- If Maria loses early at a tournament, she doesn't get to do magazine interviews and the like. And I agree with that. She has to think about the loss. And she shouldn't be rewarded for it. That was a mistake IMG and Octagon made with Anna Kournikova. She would lose a match a go talk to Fashion magazines! That was reported on ESPN's Sport Century profile of Anna Kournikova. I'm glad that IMG makes Maria think about an early round loss by not rewarding her with magazine interviews and photo shoots. There is a time and a place for everything. Including photo shoots and magazine interviews and articles. But the time and place is not right after a loss.
I enjoyed meeting Max Eisenbud and talking with him for a long time. He called me a good fan of Maria's, too!
Then Maria's father Yuri joined us on the bleachers. Then Maria joined us, too. And she was in her Delaware Smash outfit. A white top and a black skirt. She sat at the bottom of the bleachers, and would occasionally look up at us. I thanked her for signing and showed her the Maria Sharapova post card Max had given me. She seemd tired to me. And it showed in her play. But there are other days ahead for Maria Sharapova. And alot of great days, too!
Even though she was tired, Maria served a powerful up the tee serve reminiscent of Venus Williams! Maria really climed all over that serve!
From Major League Baseball, the late Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox, was known as the "Splendid Splinter", beacause he was a great hitter and he was very slender. Well, the sports world has a new "Splendid Splinter"!
And her name is Maria Sharapova. Like Ted Williams when he played, Maria is a great hitter and very slender!
And when Maria puts on another 15 pounds and gets her legs under her, women's tennis better watch out!