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The Defining Moments of Sharapova’s Career

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Maria Sharapova announced her retirement from tennis this week at the age of 32. Since arriving in America with her father in 1994 with less than $1,000 (and speaking no English), Sharapova has won five Grand Slam titles en route to becoming one of the most iconic figures in the world of sports. Below, we remember the moments that defined her career. 

2004: Upsets Serena Williams to win Wimbledon

Seeded 13th and only 17-years-old, Sharapova pulled off one of the greatest upsets in tennis history when she knocked off Serena Williams to win Wimbledon in 2004. Serena was both the defending champion and the tournament’s top seed. The win kicked off “Maria Mania,” as a sharp increase in media attention made Sharapova an overnight celebrity.

2005: World No. 1

Sharapova became the first Russian woman to hold the world No. 1 ranking on August 22nd, 2005, and though her reign lasted only a week, she was able to reclaim the top spot in September of that year. The 2005 season was also notable for the fact that Sharapova lost to the eventual champion in every Grand Slam that she played in, further solidifying her status as an apparent up-and-coming superstar.

2006: US Open champion

After establishing herself as one of the world’s best players in the years since her Wimbledon victory, Sharapova returned to the top of the mountain by defeating top-seed Amélie Mauresmo to win the US Open.

2008: Australian Open champion and lingering shoulder issues 

Sharapova won the 2008 Australian Open without dropping a set all tournament. However, an MRI scan later in the year revealed that Sharapova had been suffering from a torn rotator cuff since April. After a failed attempt to rehabilitate the shoulder, Sharapova had surgery, beginning what would become an ongoing cycle of treatment and injury. Even in a retirement interview with The New York Times, Sharapova said her shoulder hasn’t been fully healthy since before her 2008 surgery.

2012: Career Grand Slam

After multiple years of struggling to return to form, Sharapova had a personal renaissance in 2012. First, she won the French Open, completing a Career Grand Slam and regaining the No. 1 ranking in the world. Then, she became the first female to ever bear the Russian national flag at the 2012 Olympics, where she won a silver medal after losing to Serena Williams in the final.

2013: Off-court feud with Serena 

After Sharapova upset Serena in 2004, many believed the next great tennis rivalry had been born. However, after topping Serena once more in 2004, Sharapova never beat her again, and with her retirement, the all-time record officially stands 20-2 in Serena’s favor. Instead of an athletic rivalry, we were given a personal feud, which officially broke into the public in 2013. Serena opened the exchange by taking an apparent shot at Sharapova’s boyfriend at the time (rumored to be one of Serena’s exes), claiming he had a “black heart.” Sharapova responded by pretending to be above it all before hinting that Serena might be dating her own coach.

2016: Doping charges and sharp decline 

Sharapova released a letter in March of 2016 saying that she had failed a drug test at that year’s Australian Open. In her letter, Sharapova admitted to testing positive for meldonium, which had been added to the WADA’s banned substance list on January 1st, 2016 (and which was illegal in the US, though not in Russia). Sharapova, who had reportedly been taking the drug for 10 years to treat a magnesium deficiency, an irregular EKG, and a family history of diabetes, claimed to have overlooked the multiple warnings she was given in the lead-up to the ban.

The charges kept Sharapova off the court for 15 months and seriously tarnished her reputation among competitors, as following her reinstatement, she was given multiple wild-card invitations to major tournaments despite only just coming off a major suspension. Her subsequent decline in performance also forced fans to reconsider her on-court accomplishments. While age and chronic injuries certainly played a factor, given how long Sharapova had successfully competed with a bad shoulder, it was hard not to notice how quickly her game deteriorated post suspension.

2020: Announces retirement

By announcing her retirement in February, Sharapova guaranteed there’d be no farewell tour for one of the most famous names in the world of sports. Now we can start debating where she ranks all-time. For many, Sharapova is only on the fringes, given her pitiful record against Serena and her great-but-not-amazing final total of five Grand Slams.

The major discrepancies between Sharapova’s on-court accomplishments and off-court celebrity have been a source of controversy for over a decade. She was the highest-paid female athlete in the world for 11 years straight, which is a testament to not only her personal hustle and brand management, but also her famously marketable appearance. It’s hard to fault Sharapova for maximizing her earnings potential (and bringing attention to her sport while doing so). And yet, it’s also clear that she was able to monetize her image in ways her competitors could not, even as she was continually out-performed on the court.

Summarizing Sharapova’s career in a neat, final judgment is neither possible nor interesting. Whether or not her trophy case ever warranted her endorsement profile, the fact is she won our attention again and again. And in the world of sports, there may be no greater victory.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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