Tennis

Loss ends best Wimbledon storyline

Maria Sharapova of Russia
Maria Sharapova joined the list of players needing treatment on Wednesday.
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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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WIMBLEDON, England

Looks like Maria Sharapova won’t be invited to the cool parties OR win Wimbledon.

With a whole lot of yelling and screaming, poof, there went the fun we were expecting for two weeks at Wimbledon. Sharapova lost 6-3, 6-4 in the second round Wednesday to Michelle Larcher de Brito. They are two of the loudest grunters on tour.

No more snickering comments back and forth with Serena Williams. It was supposed to be two full weeks of uncivil behavior, just what tennis needs. Serena kicked it off with her shots in Rolling Stone magazine.

Wimbledon Catfight 2013 is over and done. Serena wins that, too, just by surviving the first Wednesday of the tournament.

Did it all get to Sharapova?

“I’ve handled a lot of things off the court in my career,’’ she said. “I’m a four-time Grand Slam champion. I’ve been No. 1 in the world. I don’t know if you can call those things distractions.’’

In the end, I don’t think it did get to her. She just wasn’t good enough, and she doesn’t move well enough.

Players were dropping all over the place Wednesday, some sliding on the grass. Sharapova fell three times, and once had to have a trainer come out to look at her hip.

She complained to the chair umpire that the court was dangerous, though she refused to blame the surface afterward: “I think it was a combination of everything. ... Those are the conditions that are there for my opponent as well.’’

Maria Sharapova

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Can't get enough Maria Sharapova? We don't blame you. Check out these photos.

The slippery turf made footwork even more important than usual, and Sharapova was shaky and tentative in setting up. That kept her off-balance, and unable to attack the ball as much as usual.

Serena started the fun last week in Rolling Stone in a way that wasn’t fun at all. She referred to the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, where high school boys dragged around a passed-out drunk girl and raped her. Serena seemed to assess some of the blame to the victim, asking why she was so drunk. Williams has apologized twice since then.

To be clear: I am not counting those statements as part of the fun. They were wrong, and they were ugly and stupid.

But in the same article, Williams was quoted saying some things that presumably were referring to Sharapova. She was apparently on the phone in front of the reporter, and said that a top-five player always starts press conferences with how happy she is. It’s so boring, she said.

“She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties,’’ Williams said. “And hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.’’

The black-heart comment was tied up in Sharapova dating tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, who is rumored to be Williams’ ex-boyfriend.

Sharapova came back by saying there was nothing personal between Williams and her, and that people just make up their rivalry. Oh, and if Williams wants to talk personal stuff, she should stick to explaining the fact that her new rumored boyfriend, who has kids, is now getting a divorce.

At Wimbledon, Williams said she had met up with Sharapova and apologized personally before Sharapova’s comeback. Asked to confirm that Serena had apologized, Sharapova declined to comment.

Twice.

So let’s face it, this is just petty little stuff (after the Steubenville comments). But to add to the pettiness, I should say that if you’re going to talk smack off the court, you have to live up to it on the court.

It should be a complete disconnect, but the truth is, it doesn’t come across that way. Sharapova is gone and Williams is going to win.

Just too bad we’re robbed of another week and a half of the trivia and the final rumble. But there’s always the U.S. Open.

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