Whilst in the men’s tour Grand Slam victories, along with the number one ranking, seems to have recently been spread between four players, who often dominate these tournaments, the female editions seem to be more evenly spread, with a multitude of players possessing the capabilities to succeed at the pinnacle, as highlighted by the four different major victors this year. Amongst these proficient players seemed to be Maria Sharapova, who utilised her maiden Wimbledon victory in 2004 as a motivation to hone her credentials, ultimately elevating her standing to number one. Yet, the Russian recently undertook an absence from the sport due to her alleged usage of performance enhancements. Whilst this may have paid dividends for her rivals, who seemed to thrive with the increasingly viable pathway to the finals, Sharapova herself seemed to be placed in challenging circumstances. Having recently returned to tennis, she won her first tournament in Tianjin, perhaps showcasing the reasoning as to why she may have warranted a second chance in the sport, and why a greater emphasis may be placed on reform in the future.
With the tournament her seventh since her return, Sharapova seemed to have been continuously returning to full fitness, and this may have been an important factor in her playing at her peak capabilities. This seemed to be reiterated in Tianjin, with the Russian recording straight set victories in all of her matches, and therefore suggesting she may be rapidly returning to her high status. With the tournament her 36th competitive triumph, she may already be amongst the most proficient players in history, yet aiming to rebuild the high regard in which she may have been previously held may be what’s presently motivates her and, if so, her determination may be her crowning glory.
Sharapova’s victory, whilst naturally significant for her, seems to have created a wide array of debate. With multiple discussions occurring as to whether she warranted a return to the sport originally, and in turn if she might have deserved the opportunity to win silverware. Yet, this may pay dividends for the sport itself, as whilst it may produce a challenging situation, it may be a challenge they relish. With tennis seeking to enhance its status, and perhaps surpass football as the most viewed sports in the world, creating a large debate may result in a wide array of people becoming impacted. With these people ultimately forming an opinion on the repercussions of said events, they may also play a key role in advertising the sport, utilising social media to potentially advance the cause further.
Poignantly, the result may also lead to increased reform in sport in general, most notably due to the current situation in athletics. With a multitude of medals from various major championships being reallocated recently due to the overarching desire to create a fair playing field, and provide equal opportunities, and rewards, for those abiding by the rules, ensuring enhancements may be removed seems to be key in all sports. Thus, tennis may unite the entirety of the sporting world under a common ideology. In addition, Sharapova’s return may also prove the benefits of reintegrating these athletes back into the sport, and with there being a similar situation currently surrounding Dan Evans, highlighting the benefits of viable pathways may set a precedent which the rest of the sporting world may follow.
With her involvement in recent Grand Slams sporadic, the necessity for a victory may have intensified, and as such Sharapova may have proven she continues to possess the capabilities to thrive at the pinnacle. Whilst the majority of focus may presently be on the forthcoming ATP Finals, in which the most accomplished players on the tour compete, Sharapova may opt to utilise this period productively, motivating herself to become eligible for this tournament, and regain both the status and trust of the entire sporting world. As such, Sharapova may have enhanced the sport as opposed to the alternative, as it may presently be proving dividends for all, with the potential reform on substances, leading to an equal playing field, and Sharapova’s involvement in matches signalling enhanced strength in depth.
Why may Sharapova’s victory be important in reigniting the debate surrounding enhancements?