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I learned two things last week: one was that in the late 18th century, a thoroughbred racehorse existed called Potoooooooo – pronounced “Potatoes”. The other was that Maria Sharapova, the former world No 1 tennis player and now poster-girl for absent-minded doping, attributes her great height to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The former I gleaned from Wikipedia. The latter was from the player’s autobiography, Unstoppable: My life so far, which will be published on Tuesday. It was difficult to know whether to believe either. Here’s what Sharapova says: “One morning in April 1986 as she was working in the garden [at her home in the Belarussian town of Gomel, 40 miles from Chernobyl], my mother heard a rumble in the distance. She was soon to be pregnant with me, her only child. “Years later we would go to [my grandmother’s] house on vacation. We’d be amazed by the huge forest mushrooms. Everyone said it was caused by radiation, which makes you wonder. “My mother and father are not small, but not big either. I am six foot two, not counting heels. “My mother was about to be pregnant with me when the reactor blew, drinking the water and eating the vegetables – and she continued to drink the water and eat the vegetables after she got pregnant, so who knows?” Tennis machine Who knows indeed. But what I do know is that this passage is one of the few times we learn something new about Sharapova throughout the entire book. Although we also discover that she swears like a stevedore (she says that discovering she’d failed a test was a “mindf**k”), throughout her book Sharapova cements the long-held view that she is a clinical tennis machine, one that has a planet-sized chip on her shoulder over Serena Williams. She comes across as deeply driven, difficult to like and decidedly unrepentant about her doping ban – a suspension which, ironically, has extended her career (she had planned to retire after last year’s US Open, before her 15-month ban). She accuses the World Anti-Doping Agency of bias against Eastern Europeans in their decision to put meldonium on the banned list: “Wada grew concerned not because it improves performance, but because so many athletes from Eastern Europe and Russia take it,” she says. And, despite claiming she had been prescribed the drug from the age of 18 because of irregular heartbeats, she repeatedly calls meldonium a “supplement”. Winning Other than her excuses for doping, Sharapova’s reasons for winning are enlightening, if a little repugnant. She repeatedly points out that she avoids making friends with players, and says of what drives her on: “The idea of legacy and greatness – will that do it? Probably not. That is just abstract bulls**t for writers and fans. “The record book? Posterity? F**k that. Did you hear what that girl said about me at the press conference? That’s what gets me going. Make them eat their words.” They may eat their words, but I wouldn’t recommend reading Sharapova’s. Life’s too short.