Title: Unstoppable: My Life So Far
Author: Maria Sharapova
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Non-fiction, Autobiography, Sports (tennis)
Book format: Digital (pre-release copy)
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Description: The fiercely honest, fearless, darkly funny autobiography of global tennis star Maria Sharapova.
In the middle of the night, a father and his daughter step off a Greyhound bus in Florida and head straight to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. They ring the bell, though no one is expecting them and they don’t speak English. They have arrived from Russia with just seven hundred dollars and the conviction that this six-year-old girl will be the world’s next great tennis star. They are right. This is Maria Sharapova’s gripping and fearless autobiography, telling her story from her roots in the small Siberian town her parents fled to after the Chernobyl disaster, through her arrival in the US with nothing and her phenomenal rise to success – winning Wimbledon aged just seventeen – to the disasters that threatened her career and her fight back. Here the five-time Grand Slam winner gives us candid insights into her relationship with her father, who gave up his job and life in Russia to dedicate himself to his daughter; the truth behind her famous rivalry with Serena Williams; the injuries and suspension controversy that threatened to end it all; and her recent battle to get back on court. Told with the same combative, no-holds-barred attitude as her game, it’s a story of crazy luck, mistakes, rivalries, sacrifice, survival and, above all, the constant, unwavering determination to win.

*Free copy provided by publisher via NetGalley for review…

Review:  I’ve always loved watching and following tennis but I’ve never been a fan of Maria Sharapova. I was hoping this book would help to change my mind and in many ways it does, but I’m left with a mixture of feelings after reading this.

‘Unstoppable: My Life So Far’ is an easy read and I got into this book right away. The first page shows a couple of pictures of Sharapova as a child before beginning with a prologue where she talks about her recent doping ban. It’s a brilliant start to the book as it explains the truth of the ban and makes you wonder if it should have happened at all. The prologue is brief and there is more on the ban in the last chapter of book, with the rest of the story following in a chronological order, beginning with Sharapova’s life in Gomel, Belarus.

The book has a really easy to read style making it feel as if Sharapova is chatting with you while telling you her life. Her early years before moving to the US are just fascinating to read and it gave me a sense of the strength and determination she has inside her. As the book progresses and details her life in America you begin to have a real sense of respect for her. I never knew the life she led, the difficulties she faced early on and the conditions she and her father lived in. It all makes you feel real respect for her and I thought I would really enjoy the whole book from start to finish. But as Sharapova reveals the first information about Serena Williams, I did start to feel differently about her.

I’ll admit right now that I do like Serena Williams but I was prepared to hear some real truths about how the rivalry began, regardless of who did what to who. The book is advertised as explaining this ‘legendary rivalry’ but no matter how many times Sharapova brings up the issues around her and Williams I couldn’t see any real conflicts in her story. At the very first mention of seeing the Williams sisters she seems to have set up her own barrier against them and this became more clear the further I read on. At several points in the story Sharapova even explains the behaviour Williams showed towards her, behaviour which I can only see as positive and even friendly, and yet Sharapova sees it as alien, as if it wasn’t real. In the end her mentions of Williams began to grate on me and it really spoiled my enjoyment in reading this book.  It felt like a bitter attempt to instill some hatred towards Williams, especially when she mentions a particular incident post match which sounds like a private moment, that shouldn’t be mentioned in public, let alone in a book!  I doubt if any other players would mention this sort of thing publicly.

Although people who are not into tennis may enjoy this book there’s no explanation of how tennis games work and there’s a lot of descriptions around certain matches which may lose some people but I found it very interesting to read. I was never confused at any point during these chapters and it was good to hear how someone feels in the middle of the match, the thoughts and feelings they go through as you never really see when watching a tennis match as a spectator. In the last chapters Sharapova details other aspects of her life. As a child she speaks of few moments that go outside of the tennis life but in the last chapters she starts to talk about relationships. This is also an interesting part of her book and it was good to see more of her life outside of tennis. The last pages detail the ban again and the struggle she went through. It was good to hear more details of this and it did make me respect her a little more, however it was still hard to enjoy this book that much by the end given how Sharapova describes not only Williams but tennis relationships in general.

There is swearing in the book. There isn’t much in the first chapters but there is some use of the f and s word later on. The ending is good and I enjoyed reading the book as a whole. There’s a lot of detail of her early life and in these chapters I found a newfound respect for Sharapova. It will certainly change your mind about her when you read about the difficult circumstances she had in her early life. I also found her easy to read style fun to read and I was gripped throughout some of her early life chapters. However the digs at Williams, her explanations of friendships in tennis and the overall feel of pettiness, this spoiled what could have been a really great read. It’s not that I’m a fan of Serena Williams that makes me dislike this part of the book, it would be the same no matter who was mentioned. It’s just not what I expect to read when I pick up an autobiography and that’s why I have reduced my rating which is a shame.

Do you enjoy watching or playing tennis?  Do you enjoy reading autobiographies/biographies of sports stars?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂