As spats go, this one was more passive-aggressive than Tiger Woods vs. Sergio Garcia, but a little verbal back-and-forth between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova has spiced up the Wimbledon fortnight.
On Sunday, with play beginning Monday, Williams said she had personally apologized to Sharapova for veiled comments attributed to her in a recent Rolling Stone profile. Williams last week had apologized publicly for saying in the same profile that a 16-year-old Steubenville rape victim “shouldn’t have put herself in that position” and privately to the victim and her family.
“One of the first things I did was reach out to the family. Not only that, I made it a point to reach out to Maria, as well, because she was inadvertently brought into the situation by assumptions made by the reporter,” Williams said Sunday during her pre-Wimbledon news conference. “I personally talked to Maria at the player party, incidentally. I said, ‘Look, I want to personally apologize to you if you are offended by being brought into my situation. I want to take this moment to just pour myself, be open, say I’m very sorry for this whole situation.’ ”
At issue are veiled comments about, what else, love. Williams had told Rolling Stone that a “top-five player who is now in love … begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ — it’s so boring. 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.”
The reporter, Stephen Rodrick, wrote that “An educated guess is she’s talking about Sharapova, who is now dating Grigor Dimitrov, one of Serena’s rumored exes.”
Sharapova addressed that in her press conference Saturday.
“At the end of the day, we have a tremendous amount of respect for what we do on the court. I just think she should be talking about her accomplishments, her achievements, rather than everything else that’s just getting attention and controversy,” Sharapova said.
“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. Talk about other things, but not draw attention to other things. She has so much in her life, many positives, and I think that’s what it should be about.”
The alleged boyfriend in question is Patrick Mouratoglu, Williams’s coach. However, neither she nor he has confirmed that there is a personal relationship.
The women would not play one another until the final; Williams has won their last 13 meetings, including the French Open final. Williams, the No. 1 seed, won at Wimbledon last year and plays Kristina Mladenovic on Tuesday. Sharapova, the No. 3 seed, plays Mandy Minella on Monday.
“I definitely was told of the comments,” Williams said Sunday. “I definitely like to keep my personal life personal. I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it. But, yeah, I’ve always, in the past — you guys have known — I’ve kept my personal and professional life very private. I’m going to continue to do that.”