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Take that, Rog! Why Maria Sharapova thinks Rafael Nadal is the GOAT

Maria Sharapova is aware of learn how to stick an enormous serve, however she additionally is aware of a factor or two about hitting a nerve.

She demonstrated that once more the different day at the Italian Open the place, after a quick hit with Rafael Nadal on a apply courtroom, she posted on Twitter, “Had two minutes on the court with the GOAT, was so nervous.”

The tweet predictably ignited a social media flame battle between followers of Roger Federer and Nadal, whose followers are about as antagonistic towards one another as the fellas themselves are companionable.

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So what did Federer do to deserve that refined diss?

Sharapova has by no means been one to blurt out issues she may remorse afterward the spur of the second. She likes to manage her message, her model, all that advertising and marketing baloney. Perhaps she’s nonetheless miffed about the approach Federer reacted to her suspension for doping again in 2016.

Federer known as for “zero tolerance” and instructed reporters at the Stuttgart match: “It doesn’t matter if they did it on purpose or not — I don’t really see the difference. You need to know what goes into your body, you have to be 100 percent sure of what’s going on, if you’re not, you’re going to be damned.”

Nadal’s preliminary response, whereas robust, was later tempered.

But it is easy to see another excuse Sharapova may aspect with the minority in the nice GOAT debate. Like Nadal, she has a particular place in her coronary heart for the French Open.

Nadal has loved an astonishing, considerably disproportionate diploma of his success on the pink clay at Roland Garros. He’s received the title a mind-boggling 10 instances there, incomes the nickname King of Clay. It’s an excellent honor, highlighting that clay is a novel floor. There’s by no means been an equal King of Grass, a King of Hard Courts or a King of Carpet, besides maybe in an promoting marketing campaign for some house furnishings kingpin.

Clay additionally occurs to be the floor on which Sharapova now excels. She’s received the French Open twice as many instances as every other Grand Slam, though these two titles qualify her extra as a Princess than Queen of Clay. But she underwent an surprising and triumphant transformation that earned her the singles title in 2012 and 2014. She cherishes these titles, and why not? She hasn’t received every other main in additional than a decade.

Like Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova has had extra success on clay than every other floor. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

It’s been a great distance again for Sharapova following the 15-month doping suspension that ended final April. She’s received only one occasion, a minor one in Asia (Tianjin) the place her highest ranked sufferer was No. 25 Peng Shuai. She’s needed to battle accidents whereas shaking off the rust and making an attempt to handle the post-suspension challenges. She’s a decent 21-10 throughout the previous 52 weeks. Her official WTA rating of No. 52 is comparatively low, however she’s No. 12 in the extra of-the-moment UTR scores.

This is the candy spot of the tennis yr for the 31-year-old Russian. As an added bonus, her nemesis, Serena Williams, a particular possibly for the French Open, could enter the demanding occasion with out having performed a single match match since March. Williams is 19-2 towards Sharapova, with these losses relationship again to 2004. If Williams finally ends up enjoying, it’s going to give Sharapova her greatest alternative in additional than a decade to scratch out a face-saving win.

Sharapova is again in the care of Thomas Hogstedt, with whom she break up in 2013, shortly after he supervised her transformation right into a clay-court Grand Slam champ. But she’s been suffering from inconsistency. In figuring out with Nadal, she could also be hoping that his capacity to carry out at his peak throughout lengthy intervals rubs off on her. It can be the subsequent step in turning into the Queen of Clay.

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