Maria Sharapova off court

Maria Sharapova recalls Martina Navratilova told her to ‘get out of Russia’

Maria Sharapova has detailed her upbringing and recalled the time Martina Navratilova urged her to “get out of Russia” to better her chances of a professional tennis career.

Former World number one Sharapova enjoyed a successful career, winning five Grand Slams and an Olympic silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Upon the advice of 18-time singles and 31-time doubles Slam champion Martina Navratilova, Sharapova left Russia at an early age to pursue a professional career in tennis.

Speaking on the Never Stand Still podcast, Sharapova said: “Looking back at that stage of my parents’ life when I was a little girl, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that they had to make such difficult decisions.

“Both of my parents are actually from Belarus and because of the Chernobyl [nuclear] explosion and my mother was pregnant with me at the time, they moved to Siberia so I was born there.

“At the age of two, we moved to Sochi, a much more comfortable city in weather and lifestyle and that’s where I started playing tennis.

But at the age of five I went to this little clinic that was held in Moscow that was held by Martina Navratilova and she told my father we need to get out of Russia.

“The circumstances for an athlete are much better in the United States, particularly in Florida, and my father never looked back.

“He talked to my mum, who said he was very convincing at the time, and she had a lot of trust and complete loyalty and understanding of the situation and she took a huge chance.

“My father and I went to Florida on a plane without her and we were without her for the first two years because she couldn’t get a visa.

“In hindsight, I think those are the years that shape your story. That shape your vision of the world, of the people that are next to you, of the craft that you start from a young age and I was just so lucky that I did fall in love with the sport, hitting forehands and backhands.”

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.