Sharapova: I’m so proud to be Russian
Originally published on: 13/06/12 00:00
Maria Sharapova, who has lived in the United States for the last 18 years, said she felt great pride when the Russian national anthem was played after she had won the French Open title last weekend.
“Everyone knows my story of being born in Russia and moving to the United States at seven,” she said. “People didn’t criticise me but they would say: ‘She’s Russian but she’s living in the United States.’ When the flag [went up at Roland Garros] and I heard the national anthem, I was so proud to be a Russian. I’m so proud to represent my country.
“I never thought for a second that it would be otherwise, no matter how many people told me: ‘You’re not, you just have a passport.’ I couldn’t care less. I love where I’m from. I don’t live there because of the circumstances, but all my family is there, the culture and the feeling. It’s what’s inside, not what’s outside, that determines that.”
Sharapova, who is one of the favourites to carry the Russian flag at the Olympic Games opening ceremony, said she was grateful to her parents for giving her the chance to pursue her tennis education in the United States. Initially it meant she had to spend two years apart from her mother, who was unable to travel to America because of visa problems.
“My parents had a normal life in Russia and they could have easily kept living a normal life, working and raising a child in Russia,” Sharapova said. “I heard endless conversations between my parents when I was going to sleep, about how we would survive, how we would continue. And all of them were about trying to make me better.”
She added: “I was never afraid of not making it because I was OK with what I had and my family were OK with what they had. They were realistic enough to know that any day they would be going back to Russia or Belarus. For them it wasn’t a problem and neither for me.”