Despite being the world’s highest-earning sportswoman, Russian No.1 tennis player Maria Sharapova says she’s proud to hail from a run-down Siberian town.
“I am really happy and proud of where I come from. It’s fun to hear when they announce me and they don’t just say born in Russia, they actually say I was born in Nyagan, Siberia,” said Sharapova, who moved to Florida with her father when she was seven.
“It’s like when they say I’ve won a Grand Slam or been No.1, when they say where I am from, I get goosebumps because I am so proud of coming from there and getting to the position I am in today.”
Moreover, staying in Russia would have prevented her from becoming a professional player, Sharapova said.
“I have no idea who I would be now, what I would be doing. Probably, I’d have had a much more normal lifestyle, graduated from school and be working somewhere.”
Sharapova burst onto the scene when she defeated two-time defending champion and top seed Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final, despite being seeded 13th, for her first Grand Slam title at the age of 17. She followed up the success with wins at the 2006 US Open and 2008 Australian Open.
Her quest to complete the career Grand Slam with a first French Open title in 2012 will continue with a second-round tie against Ayumi Morita of Japan, ranked 88th in the world.