Dubai: Maria Sharapova has one of the most recognisable faces in the world. The Grand Slam winner, Olympic medallist and now, entrepreneur, Sharapova is known as one of the most successful women of the tennis world.
The tennis champion really knows how to live a full life. She’s athletic, healthy, entrepreneurial and managed to become the highest-paid sportswoman in the world for 11 consecutive years.
After moving to the United States from Russia at age six to pursue her tennis career, Maria turned professional at age 14. She became an overnight sensation more than a decade ago, as the tall, blonde, preternaturally cool tennis player who won her first Wimbledon title aged only 17. In the years since, she has added another four Grand Slam titles to her name, becoming one of just 10 female players to win at least once in Melbourne, Paris, Wimbledon and New York - the most coveted titles in tennis. In a brief career low, at 29, Sharapova tested positive for the controversial banned medication, meldonium during January's 2016 Australian Open. At the time, she bravely made a public statement and appealed. Her two year ban was luckily reduced to nine months and Sharapova bounced back stronger than ever.
Outside of tennis, Maria is the founder and CEO of her candy brand, Sugarpova, where she oversees the day-to-day decision-making and growth of the company — from creative branding and packaging to product R&D and retail expansion. She is also an active investor and mentor, supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs. In addition to her work as an athlete and entrepreneur, Maria is passionate about design and architecture, and brings a creative and hands-on approach to all of her projects.
Gulf News speaks with Maria Sharapova during her most recent visit in Dubai about her daily morning routine, mental health and of course that sweet tooth of hers.
What is your typical morning routine like?
I wake up around 7am each morning and start with a warm cup of water with fresh-squeezed lemon before my morning coffee. For breakfast, if I’m at home, I typically eat gluten-free bread from the local farmers market with almond butter and I make a green smoothie with butter lettuce, spinach, avocado, lemon juice and mint. If I have a day off, I use the morning to read a new book and stay in bed a little longer than usual.
How many times a week do you play tennis?
I practice six days a week.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I’m passionate about design and architecture - if I had the time right now, I’d go back to school to study it tomorrow. I’m so fortunate to have the opportunity to travel all over the world for my sport, so when I have spare time on trips, I love to explore the city I’m in - whether that’s trying new restaurants or admiring all of the different architecture I come across.
What sports do you enjoy watching (if not tennis)?
I enjoy watching basketball and I have always loved rhythmic gymnastics.
How important are both health and mental health to you?
Health - and mental health - are extremely important to me in order to be my best self, both on and off the court. I train with my team just about every day, often twice a day. But I also try to find ways to relax by reading a great book or listening to a podcast in between. Oh, I also love to take naps!
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
The best advice I’ve received is to surround yourself with smart people and ask questions – don’t assume you know all of the answers and attempt to “just figure it out.” I learned this especially to be true in running Sugarpova – we have such a talented team that has truly helped me embrace my role as a businesswoman and entrepreneur.
You have risen to the top of your sport, what do you remember most about that journey (the good and the bad)?
There isn't really an individual moment or memory that stand out as the most memorable throughout my career. Really, when I think about my career, all the way back to when I was little, I think about all the coaches and mentors I've had along the way, and all the hard work and training that I've dedicated to my craft that has made me the person I am today.
You are famous for being an empowering female, what do you do to feel empowered?
I think it’s so important to be yourself in a world where we’re influenced by so many people and by so many things. Sometimes we lose track of what we care about and conform to others, but ultimately you have to be happy in your own skin and that is something I’ve really prioritized to make sure I feel empowered.
How would you advise young girls to work on their confidence?
There will always be ups and downs, but don’t let those rough patches discourage you. There is so much you can learn from those moments, often even more than when you’re winning. It’s all a part of the journey so don’t forget to enjoy and learn from every moment, whether good or bad.
What made you start your own candy company, Sugarpova?
For pretty much my entire life, I’ve had a major sweet tooth, and growing up, I used to reward myself with a candy bar or something sweet to celebrate the end of a tough practice or workout. To me, candy represents a sense of accomplishment, and so I created Sugarpova to celebrate hard work and life’s sweet moments. I’m so excited for people here to try it.
What is your favourite candy from the collection?
Lately, I’ve been loving the Blue Raspberry Gummy Lips. It’s made with all-natural gummy. Basically made with the superfood spirulina! It was really important to me that we removed all artificial colours and flavours from our gummies and after developing them for over 18 months, I’m so proud of what we created. I’m so excited to exclusively collaborate with Candylicious to bring Sugarpova to Dubai for the first time.
What do you love most about the UAE?
I really enjoy all of the variety it offers. You can visit some of the best restaurants and shops in the world, attend incredible events, or enjoy a simple afternoon at the beach with beautiful views - all in the same day.
What would you like the world to remember about you the most?
I'm really proud of the hard work I've put into my career - whether that's training twice a day during the offseason or staying up late to work on our newest Sugarpova project. I guess I'd like people to remember me as someone who is passionate and dedicated - whether that's as a tennis player or entrepreneur.