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Sharapova Speaks on Post-Tennis Life, Osaka, and Teen Talent

By Erik Gudris | Thursday, September 9, 2021

Five-time major champion and former No. 1 Maria Sharapova enjoys life to the fullest after leaving pro tennis behind a year ago.

Yet, the Russian superstar still follows the sport and has a lot to say about its current generation of stars.

Sharapova recently spoke with Women's Wear Daily (WWD) in a wide-ranging interview. The 34-year-old Sharapova spent much of her time away from the courts traveling the world.

”I really wanted to explore the world with an entirely new perspective compared to how I saw it before," Sharapova said. "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.”

The former World No. 1 played her last pro match at the 2020 Australian Open.

Sharapova keeps in touch with the current tour and spoke in-depth about Naomi Osaka and her recent candid admissions focusing on her mental health.

“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," Sharapova said. "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.”

Sharapova also commented that dealing with the media as a tennis pro, and as individual with a private life is a balancing act. While she says players must be professional in fulfilling media duties as part of being on the tour, the media's respect for certain players and their health must also be considered.

“Again, it’s about setting certain rules. Every individual is different," Sharapova said. "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.”

Teenage talent has taken center stage at this year's US Open. Canada's Leylah Fernandez and Great Britain's Emma Raducanu are two of the event's youngest semifinalists since Sharapova achieved the same feat back in 2005.

Sharapova, who beat Serena Williams to win Wimbledon at age 17 in 2004, is excited for the next generation of talent that has quickly emerged.

“What’s nice is it’s been a nice balance with the men and women," Sharapova said. "Both sides of the draw are seeing so many competitive matches and clashes of the young and older generations.

"There’s been such great tennis. From a fan’s perspective, that’s also a great sign for the future.”

Sharapova, engaged to entrepreneur Alexander Gilkes, has not yet set a date for the wedding as the couple is planning for pandemic travel restrictions to ease so many family members and friends can attend.

The full Maria Sharapova interview can be read here.

Photo credit: Porsche