The Guardian has a revealing interview with a philosophic Maria Sharapova on the eve of Wimbledon, a tourney she grabbed as a tall yet slight 17-year old with a ball-bashing game. She gives us insight into the questions she faced while dealing and recovering from the injuries to her shoulder and elbow, the strain of being separated from her parents while building her game at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida and that special day in 2004 when she defeated Serena Williams to become the Wimbledon champion.
On deciding to return to the WTA tour while dealing with her injuries:
I had so many ways I could have got out. I had so many excuses I could have made that it would have been easy to walk away. I could have said that no one else in tennis has ever come back from a serious rotator-cuff injury to their shoulder. I could have said I've made enough money to last me the rest of my life. I could have said I've done this and done that.On being separated from her mom, Yelena, during the Bollettieri years:
My family and I built my whole career from scratch. It wasn't like I had a famous boyfriend who made my career. I didn't have a magazine that made my career. So I could have chosen to stop playing because we did it ourselves. But I love the sport too much to wake up and say I no longer want to do it. I missed it. It got to the point where I would look at books and pictures of some great moments I had on court just to remember what it felt like.
I didn't see my mom for two years. Back then there were no cell phones and, oh my goodness, no email! All I had was a pen and some paper, and so I wrote letters that would arrive back home a month later.
I was young and happy. I was in Florida, in the sunshine, learning a new language and playing tennis. But it was very difficult for my mom to lose her husband and daughter.
It was very tough for her. She was about 27 when I left for America with my dad. I'm not far off that age myself now and so I can imagine what it must have been like for her.
On her experience at the Nick Bollettieri Academy:
I was much younger than the other girls who boarded at the Academy. I was teased a lot by them. I was never a part of their groups. But [t]hat's the way it was. It was really tough but it was also a good learning experience. It matured me in many different ways. It made me realise at a young age that, sometimes, you have to be on your own. There are going to be tough times but you'll get through it. And then you'll see your dad on the weekend and it'll be easier then. I think I came out of it much stronger.On winning Wimbledon as such a young age:
I didn't have much time to socialise but there's no doubt I had my share of tough days when you don't quite know why you feel so bad. Why didn't I play as well? Why did I lose when I should've won? But those lows are important. If everything was going smoothly you would never build your character.
It was a shock to me. I never thought I was physically and mentally ready to last two weeks and seven matches against all kinds of opponents. And looking back at that moment of victory, when I was just so happy after beating Serena Williams in the final, I also think how fearless I was. To win Wimbledon at 17! Sometimes in life you get these little door openings and I just took it and played some great tennis.On the value of learning:
I started taking French lessons when I was out with the elbow injury. I went to a language school every morning and it was really fun. I have my homework with me right now in this thick folder. I'm keeping up with it.[Photo(s): Getty Images]
[Boyfriend Sasha Vujacic will] try to come over for Wimbledon but I'm doing my homework until then. I love it. I had to get my high school diploma via the internet and I remember being so excited when I got my books at the start of it. And before that, when we were reunited as a family, my mother made me do a lot of school work. I would study history and even mathematics in Russian. I'm so grateful now.
I hit a ball for a living, but I have that passion to keep learning. I have those values my parents gave me, and they constantly remind me that the first thing is to be a good person and the second is to be a professional – without even having the word 'tennis' in front of it. It's been a tough journey, but I wouldn't change anything about it.