Update Post: December 9, 2023 9:14 am
Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova retired from her career in 2020, but has been appearing frequently in tennis-related news recently. Maria generated considerable intrigue about a possible return to the WTA circuit by publishing a series of posts about her training.
While this issue is far from resolved, Sharapova will definitely delight audiences with her performance on the court in the near future. Maria will team up with seven-time TBS Champion John McEnroe in Pickleball Slam 2, where they will face legendary tennis couple Steffi Graf (22-time TBS Champion) and Andre Agassi (8-time TBS Champion).
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What is pickleball? In short, it is a mix of badminton, ping pong and tennis. The main difference with tennis is that the court is much smaller. Playing pickleball is much easier technically and physically. The sport has become very popular in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic. Pickleball mania has spread so much across the country that it was decided to hold special tournaments with the participation of tennis legends.
Maria Sharapova, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf will play in Pickleball Slam 2. This is not the first high-profile pickleball tournament, as you can easily guess from the number at the end of the name. The debut took place in Hollywood (Florida, not to be confused with California) in April of this year, when Agassi and Andy Roddick defeated McEnroe and Michael Chang, winning a million dollars in prizes. The tournament, which was broadcast by the major broadcaster ESPN, was very successful among the public, so the organizers decided to continue what they had started.
Maria Sharapova and John McEnroe
Photo: David Becker/Getty Images
The composition of the participants changed in the direction of greater eminence. Chang and Roddick each won a Grand Slam title. These are excellent former tennis players, but relatively recognizable only in the United States. Sharapova and Graf are world-class stars and have better titles than Michael and Andy. In addition, the participation of women makes the tournament much more interesting than the confrontation between old Americans.
Pickleball Slam 2 will take place in February 2024 at the Seminole Hardrock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, near Miami, Florida. The prize fund has not changed: the winner will receive 1 million dollars. There is still a long time before the legends take to the track. So far, participants are generating interest in the tournament with loud video messages to their opponents. Agassi and McEnroe threatened each other with violence on the court last summer. The other day Sharapova recorded his statement. Without harshness, like Andre and John. But with a clear indication of the presence of a competitive spirit and the intention to win.
“I play pickleball, and not just any pickleball. I’ll be playing a duet with John McEnroe against Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi on February 4 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. It’s Pickleball Slam 2 and I dare say I’m starting to get a little nervous and anxious. But never mind, I can’t wait to see you there, fans. Tune in, follow us, support us. Let’s be a team,” Sharapova said in a video posted on social media.
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Sharapova’s statement caused a sensation in the tennis community. Fans are eagerly awaiting his return to the court, although for now in an exhibition tournament.
“McEnroe, Sharapova, Agassi, Graf. I will be happy to see your game”; “Maria will simply wipe out the old people, because she is in the best shape”; “Sharapova seems to be in excellent shape”; “Very cool!”; “My God, María and Steffi are on the same field!”; “I wish you luck Maria. My favorite tennis player”; “I like this idea. “I will support Sharapova and McEnroe.”
Tennis fans are ready to watch the pickleball tournament featuring Sharapova, McEnroe, Agassi and Graf. However, some of them are quite disappointed that the legends will not be playing the classic game. Some are even waiting for Sharapova, 36, to officially resume her career.
“Disappointing. Why don’t everyone play an exhibition tennis match?”; “Maria, you better go back to tennis”; “I would like to convey to these stars: we really like tennis”; “María speaks very excitedly. Maybe I’ll go back to tennis: never say never”; “I hope they also play an exhibition match on the tennis court. I really want to see these legends in action again.”…
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McEnroe, 64, is the oldest participant in the tournament, Sharapova, 36, is the youngest. Agassi, 53, and Graf, 54, are a little older together, but between them they have 30 Slams compared to Maria and John’s 12. Furthermore, André and Steffi have been married for 22 years. They played a lot together in their free time, while Sharapova and McEnroe often participated in exhibition matches, but relatively recently they began training together seriously. It will be very interesting to find out which legend will ultimately prevail on the court.
Steffi Graf and André Agassi
Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The prize money in the Pickleball Slam 2 exhibition tournament is serious. The fight is expected to be fierce, no one is going to play carelessly. A lot of attention was paid to the tournament. Fans will enjoy watching tennis legends. Especially for Sharapova, who many hope to see again on the court at the professional level.
For Maria, Pickleball Slam 2 could be a good rehearsal for her return to the tour. Obviously, the decision to return is not easy and has not yet been made definitively, but it is also clear that Sharapova misses the match and is training hard not only to maintain good physical shape.