Is it really an upset when one person wins over another, of perhaps equal talent? Can it be expected? Or is really that much of a surprise?

And why can’t I get Maria Sharapova separated from Eli Manning in my head?

Tangled together, perhaps because both of them are singular talents who have been unfairly labeled as underdogs.

They’re not the best in their respective sports, but they are better then most of us. And together, when they were too young, they came into major success.

Maria won Wimbledon at the tender age of 17, Eli won a Cotton bowl and was drafted first overall when he was 23 – both in 2004.

Since then, however, neither has really repeated their success. Eli took the Giants to the playoffs two times, never once making it past the first round.

Likewise for Maria, who has only won one major since 2004, the US Open.

But a new year is always a new beginning. Eli has led his Giants to the Super Bowl, with a series of marvelous games. Looking like his older brother, this postseason has done a lot to help shed Eli’s image as an overrated choker.

The Australian Open has also been good to Maria. She tore though her competition, including a 6-4, 6-0 demolishing of Justin Henin.

And suddenly, both of them are starting to look very much like winners.

But why? How did they get in the position where they had to earn that title back. Eli has always been an up and down quarterback. While he’s never been as good as his brother, he has to live up to consistent comparisons to him, all while playing for a lesser team in a harsher market.

New York devours it’s superstars, especially when they don’t win it all. It’s easy to remember how well they treated Mark Messier or Joe Namath when they won it all, but don’t forget their acrimonious exits from the city.

And while tennis is not as rabid, it’s no less forgiving. In a sport that’s been noted for it’s crushing effect on teenage psyches, Maria’s play has remained great while not retaining her ranking.

So did they really upset this week? By beating an aging legend in a bitter cold, Eli has taken his team to the Super Bowl; Maria has only made the semi-finals but surely has to be considered a late favourite to win the Australian Open.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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