“I play tennis to be ranked the First”/ Ãëàâíàÿ / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / “I play tennis to be ranked the First”
“I play tennis to be ranked the First”
The world of sports, and not only sports, was shocked by the expected and yet unexpected news - Maria Sharapova officially announced her retirement from tennis, which she dedicated 28 out of nearly 33 years of her life to. It is inconceivable, but probably really enough. Even if Maria has not been in the top ten or even in the top hundred for quite a while, she will forever stay in the history of women's tennis as one of its most prominent players.
Once Nick Bollettieri, the founder and head of the famous tennis school in Florida, which brought up twelve World’s number ones, including Maria Sharapova, said about her: “She was born in Siberia. That’s already enough for her to be respected." Indeed, Maria was born in the small town of Nyagan in the Tyumen Region. But what she can and should be respected for is that incredible voyage she made all the way to the highest pinnacles of sports.
Photo credit: 5-tv.ru
In must be said that 4-year-old Masha started playing tennis in Sochi, where her parents had moved. Her father, a tennis coach, was acquainted with the father of Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a Russian tennis player, and it was Yevgeny who gave the girl her first racket. And at the age of six, Masha was lucky to play with Martina Navratilova, the World’s number one, when the latter performed a clinic in Moscow. It was Navratilova who advised Maria’s father to send the talented girl to the Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy. But how should that be done if the training fee is 35 thousand dollars per year?
Nevertheless, Yuri Sharapov took a chance and in 1994 he moved with young Masha to the United States. Back then she was only seven years old, so the tennis school considered the girl to be too young and refused her. They told her father: “Come back in a couple of years.” The following two years turned to be a real school of survival for them. To be able to stay in the United States and give his daughter opportunity to continue training, Maria’s father took any low-skilled job - he used to work as a dishwasher and a laborer at a construction site.
Photo credit: piter.tv
Two years later Masha was finally admitted to the Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy. IMG, an American sports management company, which owns the Academy today, signed a $ 500,000 contract with her and began to pay for her training at the prestigious tennis school. However, Maria’s life did not become much easier. She lived in a room with other six girls much older than her. They used to order Maria around in every possible way, for example, forcing to clean the room when it was not her turn. The Academy was established by Nick Bolletieri, a former paratrooper, so its rules, almost military-type discipline and tough training regime were more like those of a commando base rather than a children's sports camp.
On the plus side, success in sports came rather quickly. At the age of 17, Maria Sharapova won her first Grand Slam tournament. It was not just any of them, but Wimbledon. Neither Sharapova, nor anyone else expected that from her, but she became the first Russian woman to win The Championships, Wimbledon. That victory immediately made her the eighth in the world ranking.
Funny enough, the young winner did not have anything presentable to wear for the final banquet of the tournament - she absolutely had not expected such outcome. So, on Sunday, Louis Vuitton London Store was opened for her alone, and Maria was able choose the right outfit. And then the advertisers literally formed a queue to her. But Masha, having a strong stand, refused many of them out of well-grounded fear that numerous advertising shoots would impair her training. “I play tennis to be ranked first, not the tenth,” she told advertisers.
Photo credit: russianpulse.ru
Nevertheless, the compromise was found in course of time. And today, according to Forbes, Maria Sharapova is the highest paid Russian athlete of the past decade. She earned $ 197.8 million, leaving behind all Russian hockey and football players. And for the whole career, the tennis player’s income amounted to 325 million dollars. Speaking of women from the world of sports, only Serena Williams outperformed her earnings.
Photo credit: sport-xl.org
It is of interest to note that it was the Russian tennis players who caused such unparalleled upsurge of advertising fees in women's tennis. When they asked Nick Bolletieri if he had any regrets since his famous graduate Anna Kournikova had not achieved much success in tennis, he replied that her contribution into it had been greater than anyone else’s.
Previously, women's tennis was considered to be less spectacular than men's one. And female tennis players often looked quite masculine – there was a belief that such girls could succeed easier.
Female tennis players from Russia changed everything. In the early 2000s, all of the sudden, entire galaxy of slender and pretty Russians participated in all tournaments - Anastasia Myskina, Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva, Anna Chakvetadze.
However, Anna Kournikova was the first one by time of her uprise and extend of being mentioned by mass media. It was with her arrival that women's tennis clothes underwent a real revolution.
Well, it made sense that after Kournikova’s retirement, the victory palm was passed to the long-legged and pretty Maria Sharapova. Truth be told, unlike Anna, Maria managed to combine the laurels of the sex icon with actual victories on the court. She is one of ten women in history who has the so-called “career Grand Slam” since she won all the Grand Slam tournaments over the years. There were a total of 39 victories in WTA tournaments in her career. But at the same time, her spectacular outfits on the court, many of which Maria designed herself, are discussed no less than her victories in sports and the famous “screams”.
Photo credit: sport-xl.org
In her farewell column, Maria wrote that she had given 28 years of her life to tennis. And such a long sports career, of course, is also one of her victories. Many talented tennis players have the following problem: starting to play in kindergarten age, they get broken very quickly and leave the awards stand early. Just few of them manage to hold out until 25. Famous Martina Hingis retired at 22, Anastasia Myskina - at 26, Dinara Safina - at 25, Elena Dementieva - at 28. Maria Sharapova was also predicted to retire after she was 25. But those forecasts did not come true. And today, there are many who believe that Sharapova could continue to play if it were not for her injuries and the scandal about taking meldonium, which knocked her out of the regular performance schedule for a year and a half.
“Looking back, I understand that tennis has always been my pinnacle. The journey to it was full of plateaus and descents, but the views were magnificent. After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, I am ready to fight in another domain,” wrote Maria Sharapova. Well, it remains only to wish her good luck.