‘Russian sensation’ or ‘Mean Girl’? Maria Sharapova, Drug Bans, and Schadenfreude

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    This chapter focuses on one of women’s tennis’s most discernible athletes—Russian tennis player, Maria Sharapova. Having fled the fallout of the Chernobyl Disaster in 1986, Sharapova’s parents moved to Nyagan, a small town in northwest Russia. Athletically talented from a young age, Sharapova began developing her game at a time when the Soviet Union was emerging from a period of athletic wilderness.1 Best evidencing this, many Western nations, including the US and West Germany, boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, a feat reciprocated by the Soviets at the 1984 Games in LA.2 Thus, these factors combined makes Sharapova a fascinating case study.
    Her prominence in global tennis also means that over the past decade, she has become one of the most marketable tennis players – and even, athletes – in the world.3 More problematically, however, Sharapova has also gained considerable notoriety because of her 15-month drug ban that stretched from the 2016 to the 2017 season.
    This chapter is structured thus: First, it contextualizes some of the important gendered dynamics of tennis’s structure. Second, I provide a biography of Sharapova’s career, her early years developing as a tennis player, her move to the US, her transition to professionalism, and her success on the global tennis tour. Third, I provide a media analysis of Sharapova’s drug ban, outlining media responses, player responses, and the impact of her ban on professional tennis. Finally, I conclude with some short observations about the importance of Sharapova’s prominence in tennis, and the impact of her doping on the professional game.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Circus is in Town
    Subtitle of host publicationSport, Celebrity and Spectacle
    EditorsLisa Doris Alexander, Joel Nathan Rosen
    PublisherMississippi University Press
    ISBN (Print)9781496836502
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2022


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