Abraham Lincoln would sometimes write letters and then put them in a desk drawer until his emotions had calmed down. He called them "hot letters," the first hot-takes, if you will. Maria Sharapova would have been wise to follow that rule on Wednesday, when she published a rambling message to her fans, her first communication since her shocking Monday announcement of a positive drug test. When she reads this tomorrow, I think she might wish she’d had a desk drawer to stuff this in. The letter reads:
Where to begin?
1. In an email seemingly determined to thank fans, Sharapova waits until the fifth paragraph to do so. Before she gets there, she talks about her best friend’s sympathy, her rough morning, the trailing paparazzi and searching for an antique coffee table. It’s a bizarre start to her first communication with fans, one that theoretically should be about forgiveness, thanks, understanding and apologies but is more about Sharapova decribing a problem of her own making.
2. Sharapova rarely plays by the book — hence the Monday press conference to get ahead of the story. Even for her, though, this is odd. When she opens with her best friend calling to check in on her, it’s oddly self-pitying and cold. Her best friend emailed her to see how she was doing? Speaking of self-pitying, that "good old paparazzi" trailing her? Whose fault is that?
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3. All the self-awareness Sharapova showed on Monday is gone. The lines "I am determined to play tennis again and I hope I will have the chance to do so. I wish I didn’t have to go through this, but I do – and I will," effectively wipe out the stand-up admission and disappointment in herself she expressed during the presser. She’s playing the victim card even if she doesn’t realize it. "I wish I didn’t have to go through this," she writes. Then don’t take illegal medications. Pretty easy.
4. The coffee table thing is — I don’t know. Is Masha trying to act like everything’s normal two paragraphs after talking about her future in tennis? It also has a "let them eat cake" air to it. In the middle of the worst storm of her life, Sharapova is shopping for "new antique coffee tables," which is a reudundancy in terms anyway. This is what she should be doing, by the way. Getting her mind off her troubles is a good thing. But don’t brag about it in the midst of what’s supposed to be an apology.
5. Her tale about reading to her dog is the first human touch in the message. Now you feel sorry for Sharapova, the athlete with nine digits in her portfolio, sadly reading supportive messages from fans. This was the tone the entire email needed.
6. "Within hours of my announcement, you showed me support and loyalty, which I could only expect to hear when someone would be at the top of their profession." I’ve read this 10 times and still don’t understand the point of it. What was she going for here? It sounds like something Rafael Nadal might write if he were in a similar situation — something he expected to be meaningful that was hindered by his imperfect English. Sharapova has no such excuse. Is she saying her fans would be fickle if she weren’t a five-time Grand Slam champion? What a backhanded slap in the face!
7. The last graf is on point, the only thing in the letter that makes sense and conveys an important message.
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8. But that ending? Horrible. "Thank you very much, Maria Sharapova?" That sounds like a form letter you’d get from Hillary Clinton asking for a donation.
9. I understand Sharapova can’t say much at the moment. Her appeal is coming up and she can’t get into the specifics of her test or it would raise more questions. In the worst-case scenario, she could say something unintentionally incriminating. In that case, why the long letter full of nothing? Her message could and should have been a lot shorter, meaningful and heartfelt. It was paragraphs when it needed to be words. It never should have been sent at all — she made an awkward situation even more weird — but if she wanted to say thanks, she should have kept it short. That’s why Twitter exists, you know?