Maria Sharapova opens up about doping allegation in UNSTOPPABLE: MY LIFE SO FAR

UNSTOPPABLE: MY LIFE SO FAR is an honest and candid account of Maria Sharapova’s rise to tennis stardom

Whether you’re a fan of tennis or not, you’re likely to know the name Maria Sharapova. The Russian sports star is one of the most recognizable faces in tennis, winning five Grand Slams, as well as being one of the highest-grossing female athletes in the world. But Sharapova’s career came crashing down in 2016 when she failed a drug test at the Australian Open, resulting in a fifteen month ban from the sport.

Described as a “powerful memoir”, UNSTOPPABLE: MY LIFE SO FAR is a candid account of Sharapova’s rise to tennis stardom, from the public courts of Russia to the manicured lawns of Wimbledon. Written in her in her own words, the tennis champ openly admits in the Prologue that she’d planned to release her autobiography after her final ‘victory’ tour in 2016 but her plans were cut short when she was suddenly accused of doping and banned from competing. Determined to appeal the decision, Sharapova decided to focus on her unending fight to stay on top with UNSTOPPABLE detailing that very fight.

Sharapova’s story starts back in 1992 with a five-year-old Sharapova – whose real name is Masha – hitting tennis balls against a wall in a small Russian town. Convinced his daughter could be a star, Sharapova’s father Yuri risked everything to get them to Florida, arriving in America with just seven hundred dollars to his name and just a few words of English.

The story quickly catches up to 2004 to the match that made Sharapova an overnight sensation. Out of virtual anonymity, the seventeen year old beat two-time defending champion Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final to become the youngest ever winner, launching herself onto the international stage. “Maria Mania” was born as sponsors and fame came quickly calling, as well as a fierce rivalry with Williams.

Throughout the book, Sharapova talks openly about her feud with Serena Williams. In fact, Williams is such a prominent fixture in Sharapova’s book that her name shows up more than 100 times, including nine times in the prologue alone. In many way, Williams is her Sharapova’s personal benchmark and the standard that defines her career. At times, Sharapova talks about her like an idol, exaggerating Williams’ physical presence and anger, while other times she’s described as frenemy, revealing intimate moments like the time she caught William’s crying in the changing rooms at Wimbledon, a moment she believes Williams has never forgiven her for.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the book is when Sharapova came up against her toughest challenge yet – her charge by the ITF for taking the banned substance meldonium during the 2016 Australian Open. Sharapova talks frankly about the suspension, choosing not to shy away from the issue, but openly admitting that she took the drug (which had only recently been added to the ITF’s list) for a heart condition, albeit without knowing it was a banned substance. The resulting suspension would keep her off the professional courts for fifteen months – a frighteningly long time for any athlete.

For the most part, UNSTOPPABLE makes for an interesting read. Candid, frank and outspoken, Sharapova’s writing is open and honest from the outset. The tennis star also doesn’t sugar coat parts of her career, talking candidly about the relationships that have shaped her including her coaches, best friends and boyfriends, as well as her father Yuri, describing their oft-scrutinized relationship with honesty and affection.

The only real disappointment is the ending which feels hurried and abrupt. Towards the end of the book, Sharapova rushes over her legal fight with ITF to quickly get to the point in which prepares to make her return to the professional circuit. As such, the books loses some of its momentum and lacks any real sort of closure.

That said, it’s clear to see Sharapova’s passion for the sport and whether you’re a fan or not, you can’t help but be inspired by her drive and determination to win, whatever the odds. All in all, a captivating and candid story about an unending fight to stay on top.

4 out of 5 stars

UNSTOPPABLE: MY LIFE SO FAR* by Maria Sharapova is available from Amazon.