PARIS (Reuters) - Former world number one Maria Sharapova hit back at Serena Williams’ criticism of her autobiography on Wednesday — two days after their much-anticipated showdown at the French Open was scuppered by an injury to her American rival.
Williams had described Sharapova’s book “Unstoppable”, in which the Russian claimed the American hated her for beating her in the 2004 Wimbledon final and reducing her to “guttural sobs” as “100 percent hearsay”.
The 23-times Grand Slam champion also expressed her surprise that so much of Sharapova’s book revolved around her.
“I didn’t expect to be reading a book about me, that wasn’t necessarily true,” Williams said earlier this week.
Sharapova, 31, had her chance to reply on Wednesday after her chastening quarter-final defeat by Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in which she won only three games.
“Well, I think it would be strange for me not to include someone that I have competed against for so many years,” a glum Sharapova, who has lost 19 of her 21 matches against Williams, told reporters.
“I think there is a lot of autobiographies out in the world, especially in the sporting world, that don’t necessarily speak about whether they were rivals or someone they competed against.
“And I think we played many matches. Some of those matches were very defining for me. It would be very strange if I didn’t write anything about her. I think everyone would ask me questions, as well.
“So I’m not entirely sure how to go about that answer. When you’re writing an autobiography, I don’t think there is any reason to write anything that’s not true.”
Sharapova also said she had been surprised by Williams’s withdrawal with a pectoral injury shortly before they had been due on court on Monday.
“I hadn’t had a withdrawal (against me) in — I don’t know how long. It’s probably been maybe like six years or something.
“So I didn’t really know what to do. Is there a Lucky Loser coming? I mean, I think she made everyone wait a little bit.”
Sharapova was back at the French Open this year, scene of two of her five Grand Slam titles, for the first time since 2015. She was banned in 2016 following a failed doping test and last year, shortly after she returned to the Tour, organisers declined to offer her a wildcard.
Her return has not been entirely smooth and she has won only one title since making her comeback.
But after a solid claycourt season in which she reached the quarter-finals in Madrid and semis in Rome, Sharapova appears to be heading in the right direction and she will be close to the top 20 again when the rankings are published on Monday.
“Coming into this part of the year, I was losing a few first-round matches, matches that I wanted to be winning, of course,” she said.
“But to have had the victories that I have had, to have the results that I have, obviously moving a step in the right direction. But today was certainly not one of those steps.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond