War has been declared between the two highest-profile figures in women’s tennis, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, who are now at loggerheads over their complex, interlocking love lives.
There was always plenty of frostiness between the “big two” of the WTA Tour, not helped by the fact that Williams has won 12 successive matches in their on-court rivalry. But since Williams was quoted in Rolling Stone magazine last week, making caustic remarks about “the guy with a black heart” whom Sharapova is dating, we have moved to a new level.
In her Wimbledon interview yesterday, Sharapova replied by taking careful aim at Williams’s new relationship with Patrick Mouratoglou, a French tennis coach who is 12 years the American’s elder.
“If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids,” Sharapova said, effectively accusing Williams of being a home-wrecker.
“What I talk about in my press conferences is strictly about my career,” she added. “I’m sure people want to know more, but yet I try to keep my personal life private. I don’t go out and try to create things that shouldn’t be really talked about.”
The complexity of this situation is heightened by the fact that Sharapova’s boyfriend, the prodigiously talented Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov, currently the world No 31, was dating Williams just over a year ago.
This detail may have been at the root of Williams’s catty comments in Rolling Stone. While she did not name her target in person, the interviewer reported that she was referring to a top-five player who was “so in love”, and added that “an educated guess is she’s talking about Sharapova”.
“She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ – it’s so boring,” Williams was reported to have said. “She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.”
Just to add to the incestuousness of this love triangle, it was Dimitrov who introduced Williams to Mouratoglou in the first place.
“I met Serena because she was friends with Grigor and I was coaching him, so I would see her at the tournaments. I thank him, really, every day,” Mouratoglou explained during last month’s French Open. “Last year, she came [to my academy] because she wanted to practise to win Wimbledon. We started working like that, and we never stopped.”
Sharapova’s relationship with Dimitrov has been rumoured since the end of 2012. Last week they posed for photographs with Tony Giallonardo, owner of Mayfair fashion house Otto. When Dimitrov was asked if their relationship brought any extra pressure, he replied: “I think we have been managing things very well so far, so nothing to worry about.”
Williams and Mouratoglou, by contrast, are staying quiet about their relationship. Three weeks ago, after Williams’s victory in the final of the French Open, he was asked: “What about all the passion and sentimental feelings, how did those help her?” Mouratoglou just smiled and replied: “Sorry, I don’t understand the question.”