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Hard Graft Key To Maria's Enduring Success

What's the key to Maria Sharapova's near-decade at the top of the WTA? Early starts and a love of tennis.

Published April 04, 2012 04:58

Hard Graft Key To Maria's Enduring Success
Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova is worth an estimated $90 million. Her on-court success, charisma and photogenicity making her one of the most sought after names in sport and the face of brands ranging from Nike to Tiffany.

However, the trappings of success have not seen the girl from Nyagan lose sight of what got her there in the first place: hard work.

"From a fan's perspective, when you don't have access to the person on a personal level, tennis can seem very pretty and glamorous and everything seems amazing," Sharapova said.

"But they're not there when you're waking up at 7am in the morning and you're going out on the court and you're practicing for six hours a day. Going to sleep at 9.30pm exhausted for six days out of the week in order to become a better tennis player."

Despite this grueling routine, Sharapova is never happier than when working on her game out on the practice court. It is a work ethic that has taken the 24-year-old to three Grand Slams and seen her spend much of the past decade at the pinnacle of women's tennis.

"It's not like every day when your alarm goes off and it's still dark you're saying, "Hip, hip hooray, let's go!" Especially in the winter days when it's freezing outside and there is just nobody on the courts," she said.

"You do have those feelings once in a while. You're extremely tired, but then when you're playing the finals of a Grand Slam on a Saturday, you feel extremely privileged."

Sharapova's grounded approach and dedication to her trade has been integral to her success, but it has been just as important in helping her overcome adversity.

In spring 2008, the Russian was sitting atop the tennis world when disaster struck in the form of a rotator cuff tear. The injury, and the surgery required to overcome it, not only kept Sharapova off the court for the best part of a year but also impacted her game - particularly the serve - on her return.

During her time away from the WTA, Sharapova's ranking fell to No.126. However, the Russian's belief that she could make it back to the top never once waivered. And now, nearly four years later she stands on the verge of reclaiming that No.1 ranking for the fourth time.

But what is the secret behind this unquenchable thirst for success? For Sharapova, it simply comes down to a love of the game - a game that she just happens to be exceptionally gifted at.

"I mean, I love what I do. I love playing tennis, and I know that thing that ultimately wins me matches is the hard work I put on the court," Sharapova said. "When I have tough things in my life going on, when I go on court it's like my oasis. You know, you forget about everything when you're out there. I love that feeling.

"I know it sounds silly because you're hitting a tennis ball and you're trying to improve, but really, it's such a good feeling when you feel that you're good at something and you could be better."

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