Maria Sharapova stops in for this month’s Hawaii open. And with her candy biz, fashion collab with nike and more, the tennis phenom truly has much to celebrate.
Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova swings by the islands later this month for the 2019 Hawaii Open Tennis Tournament Dec. 26 to 28 at Stan Sheriff Center at University of Hawai‘i.
“Any excuse to come to Hawai‘i is a really good excuse, but especially when you get to play something that you love and is your profession,” says Sharapova. “I’ve never played there, I’ve never competed there, so I actually think it will be a really fun experience.”
After a couple of memorable trips to the Big Island in recent years, this will be the Sharapova’s first time to O‘ahu, but it’s no vacation and all business as the tennis star says she will be focused on the Hawaii Open. Presented by Ward Village and Hawai‘i Tourism, the tournament will also feature 2019 U.S. Open Champion Bianca Andreescu, three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber, U.S. Open semifinalist and ATP World Tour Top 10 Kei Nishikori, and more.
“This will really be a work trip for me, and it’s probably one of the most important parts of the season,” she explains. “It’s right after an off-season where you do a lot of training, and you’re looking to go to Australia (for the Australian Open in January) and be in really good shape.”
Still, Sharapova, who plans to spend Christmas at home in California before flying over to Hawai‘i the next day, is looking to add more memorable experiences of paradise. “It took me a really long time to get to Hawai‘i, which is very surprising, but it was only last year,”
she says. “I grew up always being by the water—my childhood on the black sand of Sochi, and then I spent my early years and teenage years in Florida, so I was on the Gulf of Mexico, and then in California. I’ve always preferred to be in a warm environment with a beautiful humid climate, even though the summers are sometimes brutal, but I much prefer it to the winters.
“On my last trip, we took drives along the lava rocks and we had this beautiful meal overlooking some of the lava flows— experiences have been, having not been there that many times, really memorable.”
Born in Russia, Sharapova moved to the United States at age 6 to pursue tennis and turned professional at age 14. Since then, she’s won 36 titles in her career including Wimbledon at age 17—the first of her five Grand Slam titles (the most recent in 2017 at Tianjin). She also was the first female to serve as the Olympic flag bearer for the Russian delegation, and held the No. 1 ranking in the world by the WTA five times. One of the highest paid female athletes in the world according to Forbes, Maria has endorsements and partnerships with companies like Nike, Evian and Porsche. Sharapova also is a rising entrepreneur in the corporate world, serving aces off-the-court as a business investor and CEO of her premium candy line, Sugarpova. Founded in 2012, the company is inspired by Sharapova’s childhood, when she recalls asking her parents for Chupa Chups lollipops (the strawberry flavor was her favorite) as a reward after a long day of practice.
From creative branding and packaging to product research and development, she continues to be involved in the day-to-day decision-making and growth of the company. The confection line features an assortment of chocolates, truffles, gummies, gumballs and more, made from premium, all-natural, non-GMO ingredients.
“For me, it goes back to memories of treating yourself for an accomplishment or job well done,” says Sharapova. “So much of my life and career is very diligent and strong. I make the greenest smoothie in the morning for breakfast, but then when it’s time to treat myself, I
do that properly and that’s kind of how that came about.
“I don’t restrict myself from every- thing. I think it’s important whether it’s your grandmother’s cooking, a chocolate that you like or treating yourself to the spa, it’s nice to do things for yourself. For me, that’s always been an element of food just because I love food.”
These days, the reward is, of course, Sugarpova products. Her top pick is her new, fun lip-shaped gummies released just this past fall, and available in four flavors: Quirky Pink Grapefruit, Flirty Strawberry Cream, Smitten Sour Blue Raspberry and Sassy Sour Tart Cherry.
“Or if my mom is with me or if I’m home, she’ll bake something,” adds Sharapova. “We have a cake in Russia, it’s like a honey cake, that I love. When we go to Russian restaurants, I’ll order that for dessert. I also love crepes, and she has a really amazing recipe from her grandmother that she makes, and I put jam on it.”
Sharapova also recently collaborated with Nike in designing a new Classic Cortez Premium shoe, along with a bomber jacket, long-sleeve T-shirt and high-rise leggings. “A few years ago, Nike asked if I would design this model of shoe and put it on the market and I was like, wow, that’s a really cool opportunity,” remembers Sharapova. “It did extremely well, so this is our third launch, and this time we also created a capsule collection with it.
“I’ve worked on a lot of projects but this one has been very personal because the La Cortez is a style that I’ve grown up with since I was young, and in the sneaker world today you see so much hype around it, and the Cortez is just an iconic silhouette that I love wearing.”
And if all this isn’t enough, Sharapova recently announced a partnership with world-renowned architect Dan Meis (Staples Center, Safeco Field and Paul Brown Stadium) to design tennis, health and wellness facilities around the world.
It’s still in the early stages, but this latest venture is a way for Sharapova to approach another passion of hers—architecture and art.
“Anytime I would go to a city, I was much more interested in going to a theater or museum or seeing a building,” she shares. “I used to love following Frank Gehry’s work all around the world, so when I was in Prague I would go see a Frank Gehry building and I would take a photo of it and send it to
my mom. Then, it kind of became any- time I see a Frank Gehry building, I’d make my way there, take a photo and send it to my mom.”
As Nike’s famous slogan goes, Just Do It.
But really, how is Sharapova doing it all?
“God, I don’t know, but to be fair, the things that I do, I really enjoy doing,” she says. “I’m fortunate I get to choose the things I’m part of, and I have to choose my time wisely because majority of my time goes to my sport. I played tennis
since I was a young girl and it’s a skill that I’m still mastering and want to get better at. There are still things to improve on and that’s how I see business.
“My professional goal now is to be healthy because I’ve had a really challenging two years with my shoulder. Health has been such an important part of my career, so I hope 2020 will be a good year for that.”