Select language:

I play tennis to be ranked the First

 /  / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / I play tennis to be ranked the First

I play tennis to be ranked the First

01.03.2020

Svetlana Alekseeva

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. Thats 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 Worlds number one, when the latter performed a clinic in Moscow. It was Navratilova who advised Marias 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, Marias 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, Marias 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 players 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 elses.

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 Kournikovas 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.



New publications

The 80th anniversary of the birth of a Russian-American poet and essayist Josef Brodsky was marked at the end of May. His life was very short by todays standards he lived 56 years only. We spoke about Brodsky seen through the lens of his time with Constantine Pleshakov, a historian and writer, Professor of Political Science at Amherst College, USA. For many years Constantine has also collaborated with Mount Holyoke College walking the same streets and breathing the same air as Brodsky did. Let us have an open mind and get an insight into the myths that still surround the poets name.
"The BRICS group was conceived as virtual reality. As something discussed by economists and international politics experts. Although the countries have been interacting with one another for centuries. And the real basis of their multilateral interaction was already there in the shape of the famous Russia-India-China triangle brought into circulation by Evgeny Primakov. The transformation of BRICS into an influential international format went through several stages, and at each stage the role of experts was paramount."
Olga Zatsepina is a teacher of English language and American culture, the head of the Russian-American Cultural Heritage Center (RACH-C), and a board member of the International Council of Russian Compatriots. She shared about her life after leaving Russia, as well as the RACH-Cs involvement in strengthening Russian-American relations and in preserving Russian cultural heritage.
On the eve of the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War, the Garden of Remembrance international campaign sums up the first results. From March 18 to May 1, 2020, more than 7,000 people in 15 countries planted 5.5 million trees. The action is supposed to represent a living monument of nature. 27 million trees will be planted in honor of 27 million who died during the Great Patriotic War. Peoples artist of the USSR, co-chair of the Immortal Regiment movement and volunteer of the Garden of Remembrance Vasily Lanovoy spoke to Russkiy Mir about the way this goal would be achieved and why the action turned into a national flash mob.
Russian community of Seattle is preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory. Igor Nozdrin, the coordinator of the Immortal Regiment movement and executive director of the Russian-American Cooperation Initiative, told us about preparation, as well as his vision of development of civil diplomacy.
A videoconference commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Encounter of the Soviet and American armies at the Elbe River brought together historians, political experts, and military officers from a dozen countries of the world. The very first speeches refocused the teleconference bridge and turned it into discussion of current issues, such as the pandemic faced by the world, and the need to join forces in presence of a common threat.