How the legendary Maria Sharapova went from the world’s sexiest sports star to a £150m global business innovator

Her talent landed five Grand Slam titles, including triumphing at The Australian Open in 2008 aged just 21.

On top of her game, Nike, Evian, Porsche and Tag Heuer offered the now 36-year-old huge sponsorship deals.

While glam cover photoshoots with fashion magazines made her the definitive face off the court.

At the age of 32 she hung up her racket, after serving a 15-month drug ban.

Although that may have tainted her playing career, since retirement she has become an extraordinary mentor for women business owners.

Her sweet company Sugarpova, which she invested around £400,000 11 years ago, is now worth a staggering £150million. Annually, it clears £16million.

The journey from world’s sexiest tennis star to global business innovator is complete.

It began in Sochi
Summer beach resort Sochi, found on the Black Sea, has become synonymous with the sporting world.

Most recently, it was home to the successful 2014 Winter Olympics.

But it was also where a young Sharapova dreamed of tennis success. She was just three when she moved there with her mother, Jelena and father, Yuri.

By the age of four, the ambitious kid was already interested in playing tennis and was gifted a racket by Aleksandr Kafelnikov, whose son Yevgeny would go on to win two Grand Slam singles titles and become Russia’s first world No1.

She was given lessons by her first mentor, Yuri Yutkin until fate sent her to the US.

It was at a tennis clinic run by Martina Navratilova in Moscow, where she would shine and be given the opportunity to leave the communist country behind and move to Florida to train with Nick Bollettieri at the IMG Academy, where the likes of Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova honed their skills.

With just $700 (£563) savings, and without a word of English to fall back on, Yuri and Maria emigrated to the US in 1994 – due to visa restrictions, Yelena joined two years later.

 

At the 2016 Australian Open, Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, which had been classified as a banned substance a few weeks earlier.

Ignorance of the new Wada rules was no excuse and she ended up serving a 15-month drugs ban.

She said in a statement at the time: “I received a letter from the ITF that I failed a drugs test at the Australian Open. I take full responsibility for it.

“For the past 10 years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name of meldonium which I did not know.

“It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on Wada’s banned list and I had legally been taking the medicine for the past 10 years.

“But on January 1st the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance which I had not known.”

“I was given this medicine by my doctor for several health issues that I was having in 2006,” Sharapova continued.

“Throughout my long career I have been very open and honest about many things and I take great responsibility and professionalism in my job every single day and I made a huge mistake.

“I let my fans down. I let the sport down I have been playing since the age of four and I love so deeply.

When she returned to the WTA circuit in April 2017, she was never the same player and only reached one Slam quarter-final.

A shoulder injury also prevented her from being competitive against the world’s best, pushing her to the margins of the game as new stars emerged.

She retired aged 32 in 2020, but hasn’t fallen out of the limelight.

Most recently, Sharapova was spotted at the Monaco Grand Prix handing over a trophy to F1 champ Max Verstappen for achieving pole position.

However, it’s her company Sugarpova that is keeping her occupied.

She was only 25 when she invested $500,000 into her own candy store in 2013.

Initially it was met with criticism because of its promotion of sugar snacks, which specifically tried to target a young audience.

Sharapova ignored the haters. Today, it is worth around £150million.

It rakes in £16million every year – selling sweets and premium chocolate in over 22 countries.

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