Just under a fortnight back, Maria Sharapova split with her coach of three years, Thomas Hogstedt of Sweden, not long after she crashed out in the second round of Wimbledon. Soon afterwards, she announced that Jimmy Connors, the feisty American who won eight Grand Slam titles, would be her new coach.
Connors was the quintessential street-fighter, scrapping and gutsing and battling and grunting to victory when he had no business outlasting far younger opponents. He left nothing behind in the locker room; by the time he left the court, victorious or otherwise, he had nothing more to offer. The audience was as drained as the left-handed battler himself. In a lot of ways, Connors was the peoples' champion, a two-time Wimbledon titlist whose triumphs came eight years apart but who was always more than the titles he stacked up.
Sharapova is 26, currently ranked No. 2 on the WTA Tour, has won four Grand Slam crowns and has been on the professional circuit for 12 years now, having announced her arrival as a 17-year-old in 2004 when she stunned Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final. Hers is the face that adorns a billion billboards. She is the face of women's tennis today, riding on her extremely good looks, flowing blond hair and her power-packed tennis - perhaps in that order. Admittedly, she hasn't won as many Grand Slams as several of the greats in women's tennis, but there is no reason for her to look back on her career and feel ashamed. She is a multi-millionaire with more than two-thirds of her life - all other things being equal - ahead of her, and if she didn't win another title in her life, she wouldn't be recognised as a lesser player.