Maria Sharapova's Killer Comeback And Why She's Our Favorite Kind Of Underdog

As of today, Maria Sharapova is the No. 1 ranked woman in tennis, reclaiming the top spot for the first time since her 2008 shoulder surgery. Her weekend win at the French Open makes her the tenth woman in the history of the game to win a career grand slam. And watching her seamless victory over Sara Errani (as well as seeing her gloriously drop to her knees in celebration at the close of the match) was so inspiring, but not just because of her tenacity and obvious skill. She reclaimed what seemed utterly out of reach, proving, in the best possible way, Sharapova is the ultimate comeback kid. And, here's why.
The obvious injury:
Sharapova found huge success at the age of 17 and ruled the world for the next four years. But the past four years have been tougher, as the athlete reconstructed her game, after seriously injuring her right shoulder. And let's be clear, coming back from that kind of injury is a big deal. Even Serena Williams has had a tough time getting back on top after her most recent (foot) injury.
She's lost to the underdog before:
There's nothing more fulfilling than seeing someone rise back to the top after some volatility. Last year at Wimbeldon, Sharapova was the favorite to win over Petra Kvitova, but she lost 6-3, 6-4, instead. After that disappointment, watching the 25-year-old seasoned pro cleanly win at the French Open felt due to her, and to us. And we thoroughly enjoyed the entire emotional rollercoaster.
She's in it for the love of the game:
Regarding her win, Sharapova had this to say: "I proved that no matter how many punches I took in my career, I've always gotten back up...I love playing tennis. I had so many outs in my career. I could have said, I don't need this. I have money; I have fame; I have victories; I have Grand Slams. But when your love for something is bigger than all those things, you continue to keep getting up in the morning when it's freezing outside, when you know that it can be the most difficult day, when nothing is working, when you feel like the belief sometimes isn't there from the outside world, and you seem so small. But you can achieve great things when you don't listen to all those things." The quote pretty much speaks for itself. As does, bring on the U.S. Open!
The cell phone incident:
The rags-to-riches story of a star rising from humble beginnings is hardly a new one, and certainly not in the world of professional athletics. That said, we love that Sharapova wasn't always the poised, perfectly polished player who stands before us today. At 17, she famously breached club protocol right after her Wimbeldon win (in which she defeated Serena Williams), using her dad's cell phone to try and text her mother from Center Court. The line umpires kept their mouths shut, and the world caught a glimpse of an overjoyed teenager who wasn't going to be held back by rules.
Yes, she's into fashion:
We've seen people hate on Sharapova for being too pretty, loving fashion (she designs accessories for Cole Haan and tennis dresses for Nike), and generally writing her off as being too distracted by all of her stereotypically female interests to ever make a proper comeback. As fashion lovers ourselves, we say, more power to her. This is a woman who owns her interests, and has made a small fortune (her 2010 Nike deal is reported to be worth $70 million) in the process. And today, it feels pretty clear that her game isn't suffering for it.
Photo: Juergen Hasenkopf/Rex/Rex USA

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