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Sports

Star’s one-on-one with Sharapova: ‘Everything for me is a learning experience’

Abac Cordero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - It’s not actually the first time that tennis superstar Maria Sharapova had set foot on the Philippines because yesterday she confirmed that she was in Palawan a few weeks ago. Safe from the prying eyes of the media, she spent days in the beautiful island, enjoying the sun and the sea. She left the way she arrived – unnoticed. Now she’s back in the country. This time for everyone to see. She will play in the inaugural leg of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) at the Mall of Asia Arena. The tournament also features a bunch of superstars like Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Daniela Hantuchova and Andy Murray. Four teams – the Manila Mavericks, Singapore Slammers, Indian Aces and UAE Royals – will play a home- and-away event under a unique and exciting format until the 13th of December. The champion team gets $1 million. Sharapova, tall and lovely, will draw much of attention. Yesterday morning, the 27-year-old Russian beauty that has won every Grand Slam event did exclusive one-on-one interviews at the Horizon Club Lounge of Edsa Shangri-La. The Philippine STAR was granted access and was given 10 minutes with the great champion. Sharapova talked about her career and what motivates her. She talked a little bit about her family and her plans of raising her own someday. She spoke about retirement even though she’s not about ready for it. She talked about how she wants to be remembered. When that day comes.

The STAR: It’s not your first time in the Philippines?

Maria Sharapova: Actually it’s my second. I’ve been to the Palawan Islands just a few weeks ago. I’ve wanted to visit the Philippines for many years. I’ve seen the fan reaction and the interaction, the fan mails and the social media, and their excitement with sports in general and tennis in particular. It’s a country that I’ve heard so many great things about especially the islands so when I get the chance for the holidays it’s a destination I really wanted to visit. It (Palawan Islands) was beautiful.

TS: Any other sport that you play other than tennis?

MS: I don’t. I’m not very good at other sports unfortunately. I’m very lucky that I’m good at one. I do a little bit of running and biking.

TS: How does a 17-year-old win a Grand Slam title?

MS: (Laughs) Actually I’m not really sure. But to be honest it’s really a unique opportunity to get to that stage and the finals of a Grand Slam and to be able to win it. I really don’t understand or realize how it happened. But it has done so many great things to my career and my life and that 10 years after I still have the passion for the sport like I did then. That’s probably my greatest achievement.

(It was in 2004 when Sharapova, then 17, defeated the top seed, two-time defending champion Serena Williams of the Wimbledon Finals. It was her first Grand Slam title, followed by victories in the US Open in 2006, Australian Open in 2008 and the French Open in 2012 and 2014).

TS: How did that win change your life?

MS: You’re never quite aware of what can happen after such a victory but everything for me was a learning experience. I’ve played tennis since I was a very young girl. You never know the expectations that come with playing before thousands of people. It’s quite unique. I still feel that every time I walk into the court that it’s my first time there. I still have that admiration for each place that I play on. Not losing the appetite is important in any career.

TS: What can you say about Asian tennis? Players coming up?

MS: It’s quite important to develop talent especially in tennis because it’s such a global sport. I think the phenomenon of Li Na coming from a small city or a city that not too many people are aware of and creating such a legacy for her country sets a good example for many other countries in Asia.

TS: What’s a typical day for you when you’re not competing?

MS: I can say that it’s business oriented. I have a lot of brand partners that I work with and I started a candy business (Sugarpova) a couple of years ago and I work on them daily when I have the spare time. They’re in 30 different countries and with the growing demand you have to be on top of many little things and details so that takes up a lot of my time. Then I spend time with my family. I rarely get to see them because I travel so much so having those days at home is quite important.

TS: You’ve won every Grand Slam title. What’s more to achieve?

MS: Win more (laughs). I always try to go to an event and a tournament like I’ve never won it. I try to have that mentality in order to keep my hunger on the court. I think if I would have been satisfied at this point in my career then I wouldn’t have the desire to keep going and keep grinding and keep running to become a better player.

TS: How do you deal with injuries and recover from them and perhaps be even better than you were before?

MS: I’ve had a few in my career and mostly on the shoulder. Quite early in my career I was 21 years old and I had shoulder surgery. It was quite a difficult path in my career because I was out for a year and not too many players have come back from a shoulder injury. But I still anticipated I’d come back and worked really hard in rehab and be healthy and little by little be in that shape. I also missed a big portion of the end of the last year because of injury as well. Coming back gives you a very good perspective and you feel very fortunate to be in the same position.

TS: How was it the first time you and your father moved to the United States?

MS: It was a bit of a culture shock at the beginning. Everything was quite different. We settled our feet in Florida. I was just training there last week and looked back at my roots. It’s great to always come back.

(In 1994, Sharapova moved to Florida with her father, Yuri, and only $700 in his pocket. Her father took low-paying jobs, including dishwashing, to fund her tennis lessons. The rest is history. Sharapova is now one of the richest athletes with career earnings of over $32 million.

TS: Did you ever see yourself where you are now when you were younger?

MS: I don’t think I did because growing up as a tennis player you really didn’t know what you’d become or where you will be. I think I was very realistic with the fact that one day this may not work out and I’d be a regular student. I actually felt that would be okay and maybe that’s one of the reasons I was able to succeed because I was never afraid to go back to Russia and be a student or try other things because I knew that would have been a great life as well.

TS: Have you set a timetable? How long will you keep on playing?

MS: I think as long as I have the hunger and I’m physically capable of it and I still have the desire to wake up and still have that mindset and goals of becoming a better player.

TS: Of course, there are plans of raising a family? Having kids?

MS: I hope so. Absolutely. I grew up being very close to my mother all the time. She had me when she was quite young and we grew up being very close friends. I’d love to have that good relationship with my future kids. Definitely.

TS: And watch your kids play tennis?

MS: I don’t know about tennis (laughs).

I think whatever they would choose to be in their lives I will be happy for them. I would hope that they will pursue it with passion and love. Whether that’s tennis that would be great because it’s such an amazing sport. It comes with a lot of sacrifices but once you commit into it you will have an incredible journey.

TS: When the day comes and you step down, how would you like to be remembered?

MS: I think history creates its own words and creates its own path for people. I think I’ve always been someone that has liked to be perceived by their results and by what they’ve done. I think action and results always speak for themselves that’s why I always loved being a tennis player that your wins and losses are in your own hands as well as your achievements. I’d like to be perceived as someone who has given everything I had in my career. That’s what I’ve tried to do from day one.

TS: Will the Philippines see more of Maria Sharapova?

MS: Absolutely. I haven’t left yet (laughs). But absolutely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAREER

GRAND SLAM

MARIA SHARAPOVA

PALAWAN ISLANDS

QUITE

SHARAPOVA

TENNIS

THINK

TIME

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