April 07, 2016 | 03:23 PM
I recently read an article about Maria Sharapova by Kevin Mitchell in the Guardian. A writer
who finds depth in brilliant displays of opening windows for audiences in tennis and boxing to
gaze and gather at the view. Media whether covering sports, politics, war or any subject are by
and large an undervalued group. 99% of the reporters I have met or seen in action clock in
incredibly long hours, receive little pay and are passionate story tellers determined to do best by
Kevin's article included,
"From the day she was spirited away from the lingering death-smell of Chernobyl to eventually
embrace America as a nervous six-year-old while her father washed dishes to support them, she
never got to be the happy kid in the park. All she had then was tennis. All she has now is tennis.
And who knows for how much longer?"
"Perhaps the sharpest dig of all came from Chris Evert, who now earns her living in the ESPN
commentary box. Maria, said the one-time ice maiden of women's tennis, has no friends in the
locker room. "Her friendships are outside of the tennis world, she's isolated herself," Evert said.
"I'm not seeing a lot of support from a lot of the players."
The reporter continued, "Sharapova says her fans are still with her, showing her love. That must
be a comfort, but they are strangers, many drooling from a distance, hoping for an autograph
they can flog on eBay."
There was more. I can never be a Kevin Mitchel, but I do hope I can increase the view and the
gathering and do so from the echo of a child. I emailed a letter of support to Maria Sharapova on
March 8, 2016. Besides a few pictures and lines removed to help shorten and my personal
contact information removed, it is exactly as was written.
I wanted to provide my support to you.
I am well aware of the responsibilities of professional tennis players, the governing bodies of
professional tennis, management teams and tennis fans having turned professional myself at age
14 and becoming #2 in the world at age 16. I understand the pressures of decisions on and off
the court and how outside and inside parties can provide beneficial and detrimental guidance to
a young and naive pro athlete.
On court I represented my country in successful Federation Cup competition. I defeated Billie
Jean King in the semi-finals of Wimbledon and Chris Evert in the semi-finals of the French
Open. While on tour I watched press conferences applauding a player the same time the public
was being defrauded. Press conferences condemning a player were also not foreign to my era.
What was seen on people's television screens at home showing champions were champions of
sport but not always champions of spirit and authenticity. Sports and media have always had an
interesting partnership. Billions of dollars are exchanged in sports and media has been a big part
of contributing to bigger and terrific opportunities for all involved in sports from the amateur to
the professional level.
Once in awhile an athlete like you comes along that captivates audiences across demographics
and while spanning the globe. Tennis fans and general audiences worldwide since 2001 have
embraced your tennis abilities, branding success, international beauty and grace. You have lived
a career and life under incredible public scrutiny since a child. You have handled it with class,
dignity and care for others, characteristics that are not built into every sports champion or even
Press conferences and social media have become a vehicle for the world to become closer
allowing public figures and celebrities to connect with their fans. Governing bodies in sports are
thankfully becoming more responsible every year. Pro athletes that have navigated thru the
doping testing without a scratch despite failing to comply to standards have that on their
conscience. There are those and more that hide, lie and avoid hoping to succeed without a
discovery. All this sports insiders and outsiders and the public are well informed on.
What I hope the world of sports and the general public also knows is this:
You have been a wonderful role model, incredibly hard working and talented player and a
morally conscience person of the highest level. Society and humanity have benefited from your
over decade of contributions to tennis, sports, humanitarian causes and business ventures.
The newly added since January 2016 banned substance was a less than a month mistake that you
immediately apologized for in a national press conference. Your intention was never to hide, lie,
blame or condemn others when your positive test was revealed to you. You took responsibility,
you accept responsibility and you did more than what the public has seen in banned substance
situations far worse in pro athletes.
As you may know I have run Little Star Foundation, helping children with cancer and children
in need for 29 years. I encounter children and families on a frequent basis that take medicine for
life saving treatments and better quality of life improvements. Often medications originally for
one area of medical support can be taken in different dosages to help in other areas of health and
wellness in order to maintain a balanced internal wellness life. It never is for enhanced
improvements in sports but a better quality of life medically.
Patients and individuals per their Doctors advice stay on medications longer than normally
recommended and look into options of medications not normally prescribed for their ailments
because alternative options have been proven successful in scientific journals. There have been
drugs created for cancer that were later to be found to help Parkinson's patients. These types of
discoveries are constant in the medical field.
People respond differently due to their family history, environment and internal process system.
Someone like you is well aware of Chernobyl. Your mother could have easily passed on to you
effects from Chernobyl that no other athlete from other parts of the world ever has to think
about. Your parents lived in environments where immune systems were compromised and that
requires you to require a different navigational path in order to restore, balance and maintain
internal components involving pathologies, medical alternatives and treatment protocols.
How many people who are judging you now have had that to deal with all that while growing
It is disturbing to see and hear the lack of humanity and lack of society and medical awareness
that is going on in response to the attack on you since your press conference.
You have lived and showed your character, compassion and excellence on a daily basis and you
should not be condemned in such a manner. You deserve better.
Throughout your career you have taken the high road even when encountering situations where
you could have easily targeted or moved focus elsewhere. You even went back to your homeland
to help children never caring if people found out about your generosity or not.
The list of your tennis greatness may have been recorded on tournament fact sheets but there
isn't enough fact finders and time to find all the greatness you have done in helping and inspiring
others, in progressing the sport of tennis, in showing humanity and kindness and in bringing
hope to those who felt it with your heart. You kept your heart and spirit, soul and kindness in an
individual sport that does have ruthlessness and a sport one in which a child's soul can be
darkened and their spirit broken in a moment never again to recover.
You were a champion in life before you became a champion in tennis. One admitted mistake will
never change the champion you are in life and in tennis. After my pro tennis career, I never
imagined that Nelson Mandela would travel the globe and want to visit me and my foundation's
headquarters to thank me and congratulate me on what I had accomplished in helping children.
I was told his visit had nothing to do with my tennis success. It was about my heart and spirit in
helping children. Your heart and spirit are golden beyond any tennis trophy and any sponsorship
accolade. You will continue in greatness beyond what you have already accomplished on and off
the tennis court.
There are lots of pictures of children I can show you that would say we all still stand by you and
are your fans. Children and people worldwide will continue being your fans.
I am sending you a few puppy pictures to cheer you up. Sometimes the things we go thru can
best be survived by fans and those that will remind you they will stand by you loyally and
faithfully. If ever a person finds you that doesn't stand by you and you are hurting because of
that I hope you find one of your fans, which Playa and I and so many others are, and you can
smile and remember who you are—still and always will be-- amazing and special you.
Best to you always,
Andrea Jaeger Playa
Little Star Foundation www.littlestar.org
Part Two will appear next Monday at INTENNIS.com under the Blog (Now It's My Turn) Watch for it
Andrea Jaeger Playa