Maria Sharapova bopped into the press room last night with a scripted enthusiasm, sighed and said, “Let’s make this a positive session tonight, please, por favor.”
Alas, journalists are not therapists and they are not the marketers who look at Sharapova with dollar signs in their eyes. It’s easy to get the sense that she has spent so long in the pro tennis bubble that she has forgotten what it is like to interact with people who aren’t stroking her sizable 19-year-old ego.
So one writer asked about the four fingers her hitting partner Michael Joyce, one of the four men taking up the 15 seats in her player box, held up during the match like a third base coach with three on and two outs.
“I thought this was supposed to be a positive interview,” she said.
Since Sharapova seems to be hearkening back to the days of the big musical with her Nike ad, “I Feel Pretty,” she must have run across “Happy Talk” from “South Pacific.” Only the reporters weren’t willing to sing along.
“The last thing I’m gonna talk about is some fingers or a banana, all right?” she said. “I hope you got that one, thanks.”
*Here is the thing about Sharapova;* she is smart, she has a cast-iron work ethic, she is young and she is pretty. I like to think that she is like the pre-transformation Andre Agassi, all that potential waiting to boil over in areas other than her tennis.
She gave $58,000 to the victims of the Beslan school massacre and she has just started the Maria Sharapova Foundation to help at-risk kids fulfill their dreams. She said she isn’t sure exactly how that will manifest, but it’s a start.
Perhaps when she proves to herself that she can apply her determination to other areas while winning majors, we will see Sharapova blossom.
She is a work in progress. With a sense of entitlement and an unparalleled drive. When she is not on the defensive, as she was after her championship, she can be engaging and fun.
Perhaps “I Feel Pretty” is her “Image is Everything,” and there is more to come.