Maria Sharapova Thrives in Pursuit of Her Passion

Maria Sharapova is in a state of transition, and it’s inspiring.

montecito, california april 25 maria sharapova attends the newly launched evian x balmain pop up at the rosewood miramar beach on april 25, 2023 in montecito, california photo by joe scarnicigetty images for evian

In February 2020, the Russian pro tennis player announced her decision to retire from the sport at a professional level. Then just 32 years old, she already had a total 36 titles under her belt, including five major titles—one each from the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open, and two at the French Open. Today, she remains just one of 10 women, and the only Russian-born tennis player, to have achieved a career grand slam.

Sharapova left the sport she loves because she was no longer at her peak—her injuries from years on the court had become a constant source of pain, and she could not compete with her previous achievements. But she still had her entire life ahead of her.

london, england july 06 maria sharapova of russia celebrates match point in her ladies singles fourth round match against zarina diyas of kazakhstan during day seven of the wimbledon lawn tennis championships at the all england lawn tennis and croquet club on july 6, 2015 in london, england photo by shaun botterillgetty imagesShaun Botterill //Getty Images

One global pandemic later, Sharapova has followed the footsteps of pro athletes before her and taken a natural next step as a sports and wellness brand ambassador. She is now a member of the board of directors of fashion brand Moncler and continues to endorse brands like Nike and Evian. She has also collaborated with various start-ups, including Therabody and Tonal.

This year’s U.S. Open marks a big occasion for Sharapova, who, now as a supporter and spectator, is honoring the game she knows so well with her own activation. Together with Evian, the athlete is launching a floating tennis court in the New York Harbor—the first of its kind—where she will play with fans as a large screen streams the U.S. Open matches for spectators to watch while sailing.

evianEvian

The ship will take off September 10, and ahead of the momentous occasion, Bazaar.com spoke to Sharapova about the current state of tennis, her life off the court, and what she’s looking forward to this season.

What is it like watching the match as a spectator rather than a competitor these days?

I love the game. I love the sport. I still watch matches very often. When I’m home and there’s an event on, I usually have it on the TV in the background as I’m going through the day. I love the stage that I’m at, so I actually appreciate the intensity and focus that so many of these athletes possess. I obviously understand what they go through on a physical and mental level, and I admire the effort of players who are in an endless pursuit of perfection at that level. I truly love to watch, and there’s an extra level of connection and happiness because I was a part of it for so many years.

What five items will you have in your bag while attending the matches?

Hydration is a crucial part of my routine when I’m out and about, so I’ll be bringing my Evian bottle, my go-to spring water; a wide-brim hat (even though that might not be popular with my seatmates as I’m watching the matches); SPF mineral Supergoop! sunscreen that I use for myself and for [her one-year-0ld son] Theo; and some lip balm. Also, I really enjoy capturing photos on film, so I might bring a film camera to take some images throughout the day.

london, england july 09 serena williams of the united states celebrates at the net after winning the ladies singles semi final match against maria sharapova of russia during day ten of the wimbledon lawn tennis championships at the all england lawn tennis and croquet club on july 9, 2015 in london, england photo by julian finneygetty imagesJulian Finney//Getty Images

How did you make the transition from pro player to entrepreneur? And do you still find time to play for fun these days?

While I’ve stepped away from professional competition, I still very much enjoy going out and practicing with my friends. There’s definitely much more laughter involved than when I played competitively. But there are ways to use it as exercise and to be outside. And that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to in New York with Evian during the SS Evian activation around the finals of the U.S. Open—to play with fans on the first floating court in New York City.

How has the state of tennis changed for women since you began?

Tennis is an extremely international sport, which is very exciting, especially for female athletes. Their athleticism, power, competitiveness, and championship mentality can be celebrated year-round all around the world. Fashion is definitely at the forefront of the majors, the four Grand Slam tournaments. You see many players showing their personalities with colors and their aligned sponsors. There’s definitely a tremendous amount of respect for what they do and the platforms that they’ve built in which they can carry their voice and their athleticism.

Is there still work to be done to make the game a fair space for everyone?

Tennis has always been a very expensive investment as an entry-level sport all around the world. So, to be able to provide the equipment at those early stages, the court infrastructure, and also the talent of coaches, whether they’re male or female, is still very limited. So, resources could definitely be increased; public facilities could be improved, and the ability to just go out and have fun without having that pressure of establishing yourself as a professional or as no. 1 in the world, without setting high expectations, finding ways to enjoy the sport and to make it fun. The more people we have passionately connected with the game, the better it is for the game as a whole, because it creates fans and enthusiasm for the sport beyond just the tennis world.

Do you hope your son grows up to be a tennis player as well?

When he is a little bit older, I will definitely go out and play with him and get a little mini racquet for him, which will be a sweet moment. Kids grow up so fast, so I think that day is coming up sooner than I thought. And if he has the passion for it, then great, but he doesn’t have to. It’s just nice being outdoors with him and finding playful activities. I definitely think tennis will be one of them for both of us.

los angeles, california march 21 maria sharapova attends the fashion trust us awards at goya studios on march 21, 2023 in los angeles, california photo by axellebauer griffinfilmmagicAxelle/Bauer-Griffin//Getty Images

What are you most excited about this U.S. Open?

The U.S. Open is one of the most thrilling sporting events of the year, from the competitive spirits of the athletes, their performance, the New York crowd, how they get behind the players, and the fashion choices, which are always so much fun and exciting. In celebration of the men’s final, Evian is putting together a really fun and unique experience. The SS Evian will be New York City’s first-ever floating tennis court, and actually, one lucky fan will be able to play some tennis with me on that court. It’s a very special way to witness a men’s final. There’s been so much excitement about the draw and who will be that final match, and to have a crowd watching it from a very unique perspective, on the boat all together, is really special. I’ll be doing some analysis and commentating from the sidelines and just having a really fun engagement throughout the afternoon.

Why does your recent partnership with Evian feel like a natural next step?

Evian has been the official water of the U.S. Open for more than 35 years, and our partnership has gone through so many exciting phases. From the Live Young campaign at the very beginning of our partnership, to a sustainability project with [Dutch fashion designer] Iris van Herpen a couple of years ago, to now experiencing the U.S. Open from the waters on the SS Evian with the first floating tennis court in New York City. Evian has always been at the forefront of hydration, educating athletes and fans alike about what it means to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This is just another extension of our partnership, allowing us to celebrate tennis, share the importance of hydration, and create unforgettable experiences together.

Rosa Sanchez is the senior news editor at Harper’s Bazaar, working on news as it relates to entertainment, fashion, and culture. Previously, she was a news editor at ABC News and, prior to that, a managing editor of celebrity news at American Media. She has also written features for Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue, Forbes, and The Hollywood Reporter, among other outlets.

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