Sharapova: "I'm still hungry for success My dream? To be a spy!"
Maria: "I’ve still got a lot of hunger for success. I want children and I want them to not be afraid to take on tough tasks. Serena the best tennis player of all time? It’s impossible to say! Tuscany is beautiful. It’s so relaxing there” On December 1 she'll be in Milan, taking part in the "Grande Sfida" exhibition match.
Starting next Tuesday, the top 8 women’s tennis players in the world will take part in the Maters is Istanbul. Maria Sharapova will even be able to pit her skills with those of Sara Errani. A prelude to La Grande Sfida on December 1, at the Forum di Assago, along with their doubles partners, Roberta Vinci and Ana Ivanovic.
Maria, what's the secret behind the success of these diminutive Italia women tennis players?
“Italian tennis is very ‘physical’ but at the same time ‘technical’, as players learn to play on clay. You learn to adapt to everything. That’s why Errani and Vinci have found their way to the top even playing against opponents who are a lot taller: they compensate for their stature with their skill and ability. There’s room for everyone in tennis. When I was younger, I used to think I’d stay short. Instead, I grew taller. However, I quickly learn that strength comes from within, from your mind. A match can last up to 3 hours. There are lots of ups and downs. It’s impossible to maintain a high level for so long. Therefore, the way you react when you are ‘down’ is fundamental. How concentrated and focussed you remain, and for how long.”
Does talking about Sara Errani always make you remember the Final and your win at Roland Garros.
“It was a surreal experience. The most unique moment of my career. Even more so than Wimbledon when I was 17-years-old and even the US Open, the tournament that, as a junior, I’d never have imagined to win one day. It has a special atmosphere. Finally winning Roland Garros, the only major I hadn’t won, on a surface that is difficult for me to play on, was very special indeed. Who knows, also because I always wanted to play against Steffi Graf there, but was never able to. That’s why when people start to talk about ‘the best tennis player in the world’, I always say it’s impossible to say, even if Serena Williams is an extremely strong player. I only ever played once against Monica Seles...”
Rich and famous. Do you still have a dream?
“Sure. Lots! My motto is: 'If you aim at the moon, even if you miss, you’ll still reach the stars.” It’s important to have dreams – to have big dreams, to keep yourself motivated. Without dreams it’s difficult to get up in the morning: you’re better off just staying in bed!”
Errani and Vinci are strong and technical as they learnt to play tennis on clay. Sara always reminds me of the Final at Roland Garros. It was surreal
If it were possible, would you prefer to be able to fly or to be invisible?
“To be invisible! Because I love Sherlock Holmes and my secret ambition is to become a spy!"
Do you believe more in willpower or destiny?
“Willpower counts for a lot. You can control things with willpower. But destiny is fundamental: things always happen for the right reason and at the right time. Things aren't merely ‘casual’ or all of equal importance, be it in a negative or a positive way. It’s always useful.”
Can you sum up Maria Sharapova in just 2 words?
“No, that’s impossible in just 2 words! I’d need at least 20! Let’s see... stubborn. And open. Better still, honest. Very honest.”
If you hadn’t become a tennis player, what other type of athlete would you have become?
“I used to dream about becoming a successful rhythmic gymnast."
At the age of 9 you moved from Russia to Florida and were coached by Nick Bollettieri: did you find that difficult? A nightmare?
“No, on the contrary. It was a fundamental experience for me. While there I matured. I developed as a person: I learnt all there is to know about life and relationships. I improved as I learnt to do things on my own. I learnt things that I still remember today, things that have made me stronger. Had I not learnt those things, I wouldn't have been able to get back to playing tennis following surgery on my shoulder. I wouldn’t have been so successful. I wouldn’t have had the will to fight so much.”
But would you allow your child to go through the same experience?
“Let’s just say that, sooner or later, I’d like to have children, but I don’t know exactly how many more years I’ll continue playing tennis for. Perhaps 3-4 more years? Perhaps I wouldn’t allow them to go through what I went through! But, if I could turn back time, I’d go through it all again, as I know how much of a formative experience it was. If everything is nice and easy, and you just stay at home, it’s tough to find challenges in life. I’d like my children to also be encouraged to take on the toughest challenges that life presents. That way, even if they do take a lot of knocks, they’ll bounce back up again. But, to do that, as I did, they'll need a lot of ‘get up and go’, self-esteem and pride.”
Not thinking a lot does, after all, help in tennis.
“I think a lot. But I think that’s in my nature. When you are on court, at 5-5 in the 3rd set, you tend to rely on instinct. Even if you do have a lot of thoughts going through your mind.”
I'd have liked to have played against Steffi Graf at Roland Garros, but, instead, I just managed to take on Monica Seles, once
What does money mean to you, and do you know how much you have in the bank?
“I do follow my financial interest and yes, I do know how much money I have in the bank. When I can buy things for my parents, or my grandparents, perhaps buy them a car and I see the joy in their eyes, or take friends on holiday and I see them happy, I don’t feel guilty about spending my own money. But when I’m home and I drink tea the way the Russians do, then there is no amount of money in the world that can make me feel happier. My parents taught me to be happy irrespective of what I’ve got, but also to be very ambitious and therefore always try to earn more. And to respect money.”
Do you feel more American or more Russian?
“From a lifestyle point of view I’m very American: I live in Florida and California. I have a very simple way of life. I spend time on the beach, relaxing. But my culture and diet is more Russian. At home, I feel very Russian. But, when I open the door, I’m surrounded by Americans, so I’m American! But my heart and my true home is in Russia, in Sochi.”
What does the future hold for Maria Sharapova?
“Another game. Another tournament. And more and more. At this moment in time, there is nothing more important to me than trying to win: I’m full of energy, ability, desire, motivation to wake up in the morning and train so I can improve ready for my next game.”
Which compliment that people pay makes you really feel happiest?
“When people say that I’m real and honest. That's very important to me. I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I’m not real. That I’m false, as I’m totally opposite to that. My mouth does sometimes get me into trouble, but I’m used to making my point when it comes to things I feel strongly about.”
Is it tough being Maria Sharapova?
“No. Why? I do what I have to do. Play sport, do things connected to my job. As a professional."
What is it that you can't do?
“I don’t lead a ‘normal’ life. I love Tuscany: it’s so peaceful, relaxing, beautiful. It’s so tranquil… But, after a week, I need more action in my life!”