Maria Sharapova talks about the fame game, Naomi Osaka and more | Sunday Observer

Maria Sharapova talks about the fame game, Naomi Osaka and more

12 September, 2021
Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova

Fresh from an extended European summer holiday, Maria Sharapova is looking at the world with a sharpened vision and a focus on entrepreneurship.

As her 4.1 million Instagram followers can attest, the former tennis pro whiled away much of the summer touring castles in Scotland, catching the Venice Film Festival, indulging in tapas in Menorca and admiring Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It all looked pretty idyllic and Sharapova said so much in a post that read, “An August I have never experienced quite like this.”

Some might say she was overdue. After 19 years on the World Tennis Association Tour, the former number-one ranked player stepped away from the pro circuit last year. Instead of working out for six hours a day and swatting serves at 102 m.p.h., the 34-year-old listened to live music at Royal Albert Hall and enjoyed a mille crepe cake among other nonathletic pursuits.

”I really wanted to explore the world with an entirely new perspective compared to how I saw it before. When I was in beautiful cities around the world for my sport, I was so focused on the competition, recovery and always getting ready for the next match or tournament — packing and unpacking — without a lot of time to really understand, visit, explore and find true meaning in how things were built and done.”

With the U.S. Open underway, Sharapova offered her views about the changing state of tennis, dealing with fame, social media’s double edge and her business ventures. At the time of her retirement last year, Sharapova was a five-time Grand Slam winner with an estimated $325 million in career earnings. The Russian-born athlete medaled at the 2012 Summer Olympics and topped Forbes’ “Highest Paid Female Athletes” list for 11 consecutive years. Injuries and a 15-month suspension for using meldonium, a controlled substance, impacted her court time before she officially bowed out, doing so by penning an essay for Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Adept at sponsorships and business deals, Sharapova’s current roster includes Evian, Rove Concepts, Tonal and others. She recently introduced collaborative furniture with Rove and is interested in working on architectural and interior projects. Sharapova’s premium candy company Sugarpova started as a side hustle in 2012. Her fiancé Alexander Gilkes is also a seasoned entrepreneur, having cofounded the online auction house Paddle8 (he exited a few years ago).

Last year, he launched Squared Circles to work with entrepreneurs and incubate up-and-coming brands in consumer goods rooted in sustainability, material science and other areas. The couple routinely talk business, projects and investments, including some that intertwine.

The athlete spoke about Naomi Osaka’s effort to bring mental wellness to the forefront of a public discussion, saying that, “We all need to be incredibly supportive of athletes who are going through tough times in their careers. Naomi is an incredible athlete and a beautiful human being, who has a very long career ahead of her.

We all need to respect the decisions that players make at times of vulnerability, when they’re feeling down or not playing their best tennis. To be honest, not many people know what’s going on behind-the-scenes and how players feel. You only see the tennis game and what happens on the court.

The more support that we can provide, the better they will be and the better that they will play.”

Having had a respectful relationship with the media, Sharapova also noted they could also be tough especially on difficult days, when you want to focus on the next practice or tournament. “But you still have to show up for the press, be professional, be better and speak about the match,” she said.

As for whether the media’s current interest in her private life is a little tough to take, Sharapova said, “Again, it’s about setting certain rules. Every individual is different. What’s sensitive for one person might not be for another, and vice versa. If you’re an athlete, it’s really about understanding what’s best for you. It’s your career and you have to take ownership. Athletes certainly have the ability to do that today, which is really important.” (WWD)