Maria Sharapova is anxious for Pickleball Slam 2

Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Retired tennis star Maria Sharapova has been preparing for Pickleball Slam 2 for months, but that does not alleviate her rookie anxiety.  Sharapova is new to pickleball, but the five-time Grand Slam champion is a competitor so she wants to play well.  She and her partner John McEnroe will face the married tennis legends, Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi in the star-studded February 4, 2024 event of Grand Slam tennis champions at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the inaugural event held in April 2023, Andy Roddick paired with Agassi to win the event over Michael Chang and McEnroe.  ESPN experienced a ratings boom so the second-year event was quickly planned with a coed feature added.

Another change from the first event is that each team has a coach.  Sharapova and McEnroe have an experienced tennis and pickleball player in Jack Sock; whereas, Graf and Agassi will have James Blake.

Maria Sharapova’s approach

Training, training, and more training is how Sharapova is getting ready.  While she is the youngest player of the four by 17 years to Agassi at 53 who is the second youngest, she is at a disadvantage as the other three have been playing the sport longer.

Agassi and Graf regularly play together. Graf also made a quick cameo appearance in the Inaugural Pickleball Slam in relief of John McEnroe.

Sharapova gave birth to her first child, a son named Theo, in July 2022 with fiance Alexander Gilkes so her priorities are divided between her business ventures, parenting, and now pickleball.

The good news for Sharapova is that the pickleball serve is underhanded. It will not test her shoulder which was frequently injured during her WTA playing career that ended with her retirement in 2020.  Fans wonder if they will hear the signature Sharapova grunt when she is making her shots. Watch Pickleball Slam 2 on ESPN on February 4, 2024, at 8:30 PM EST.

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