Maria Sharapova about her childhood in interview to Tim Ferriss

So who is Maria Sharapova?

  • Only one of a handful of players to hold all four Grand Slam titles, including Wimbledon, US Open, Australian Open, and Roland-Garros.
  • Held the world No. 1 ranking for 21 weeks and won 35 singles titles in her career.
  • Forbes named Maria the highest-paid female athlete of all time in 2005. She’s now held that title for a record 11 or 12 years.

In 2007, she became a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program and has made significant contributions to Chernobyl-related projects in Russia.

Most recently, Maria is the author of a book titled Unstoppable, My Life So Far. It describes her story in detail and was done in collaboration with an incredible writer Rich Cohen.

Abstracts from the interview, quoting Maria…

About the Maria’s childhood

 “My mum was studying communications and business. My father worked in construction. We lived a very basic life at that time. And I had a very interesting childhood because my parents were very young, and they had no knowledge of what to do. I was the first child. I’m still the only child. But they were very careful of what the decisions they made. I spent so many hours in the library with my mother while she was doing her homework or studying for an exam. I’d go with my father when he would leisurely play tennis.”

 “My mother was very much into education. She didn’t want anything to do with tennis, sports. She danced ballet a bit. And she brought a lot of cultural, educational and growing-in-your-mind experiences to me.”

She would read passages and novels that I was way too young to understand. But she made me memorize a lot of those passages. And that repetitiveness was a sense of discipline that she taught me in a way that had nothing to do with sports. I would spend an hour in the evening just memorizing poems by Pushkin and thinking to myself: when am I ever going to use this?”

“Discipline doesn’t always come so easy. You have to build its foundations, and you have to build the trust with the people that help you with it. And I think my mum’s influence and her ability to acknowledge that as a young mom was so inspirational. And that discipline really comes into play as a tennis player because you have to have so much of it. There’s sacrifice, and there are the long days. But the discipline that you have to carry on with, whether it’s a good day or a bad day, just beats everything else.”

Tim Ferriss sums up the secret of Maria’s upbringing:

  • No. 1 your parents talk to you, at least part of the time, about subject matter above your head, so to speak, or as adults
  • No. 2 huge exposure to books
  • No. 3 developing a tolerance for repetition

“You might say, “Why am I memorizing these poems? I’m never going to use these poems.” But, at the same time, you’re developing the ability to tolerate the thousands of hours that you’re going to put into hitting a ball against the wall. And it’s the mental persistence that you’re building.”

“My mum was a very young parent. And I felt like I was in her cocoon, and I was growing up in her hands, which also I think explains the bond that we have today and the friendship we were able to have from that.”

“As I look back how my parents were sacrificing so much for myself created this bond within my family that was very important. And it’s priceless. And I know that those are not the people that we are able to choose in our life. But they are the people that know us the best. And that relationship can do so many wonders in your life.”

To be continued..

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