Russian tennis ace Sharapova reveals the moment which led to the American dominating her on court in her new memoir, Unstoppable: My Life So Far

Russia's Maria Sharapova and USA's Serena Williams with their trophies after the 2004 Wimbledon final in London. Pic/Getty Images
Russia's Maria Sharapova and USA's Serena Williams with their trophies after the 2004 Wimbledon final in London. Pic/Getty Images

Controversial tennis star Maria Sharapova has said her rivalry with Serena Williams stems back to the Wimbledon 2004 final when the Russian heard the American sobbing in the locker room after the 6-1, 6-4 defeat.

At 17 years and 75 days, Sharapova became the third youngest women's champion in the tournament's history. She carried that feat with her as motivation throughout her career. In an extract of her new memoir, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, released by New York Times on Monday, Sharapova said Williams, then 23 and a six-time Grand Slam champion, let her guard down after the match. "Guttural sobs, the sort that make you heave for air, the sort that scares you," Sharapova wrote.

Tears flowing
"It went on and on. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there. People often wonder why I have had so much trouble beating Serena; she's owned me in the past 10 years. My record against her is 2 and 19. "In analysing this, people talk about Serena's strength, her serve and confidence, how her particular game matches up to my particular game, and sure there is truth to all of that; but, to me, the real answer was there, in this locker room, where I was changing and she was bawling. I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon," she added.

The Russian admits that the relationship with her rival is not friendly. "Serena and I should be friends. We love the same thing and we have the same passion. Only a few people in the world know what we know — what it feels like in the dead centre of this storm, the fear and anger that drive you, how it is to win and how it is to lose. But we are not friends — not at all.

What sport can do
"I think, to some extent, we have driven each other. Maybe that's better than being friends. Maybe that's what it takes to fire up the proper fury. Only when you have that intense antagonism can you find the strength to finish her off. But who knows? Someday, when all this is in our past, maybe we'll become friends. Or not. You never can tell."