While the world knows Maria Sharapova’s story as an elite tennis player, not many know that her career started in the same town that will host the world’s best winter sports athletes this month. The young player picked up her first racquet on the courts of the small resort town and returned yesterday to visit the place where it all began.
To offer inspiration to the local tennis community, Nike recently refurbished the court for the Evgeniy Kafelnikov Tennis Academy and added a mural that illustrates Sharapova’s rise from a young star to one of the world’s elite tennis athletes.
“It’s incredible to travel back to my roots and still see so much joy and passion from kids for the game today,” Sharapova says. “I’m honored to officially re-open the court for play and I hope that these young stars will continue to develop and enhance their technique and see that with dedication and motivation, you can rise to the top.”
Included on the mural is an inspirational message to the tennis star that captures the impact the court had on her career:
This is more than a line on a wall. It’s where a little girl hit her first thousand tennis balls. It’s daring to go further. It’s defying the doubters. It’s deciding what you want. Then doing something about it. This is not just a line on a wall. It’s where legends are made.
As part of a court dedication ceremony in her honor, Sharapova, along with the help of local girls from the academy, reopened the court for play and spoke passionately about her early career, the court’s significance in her life and what it means to be back home.
“I lived here as a girl for five years so my tennis memories all come back to this court and this wall,” said Sharapova. “It’s such a special occasion to be back here. Both as a part of this global moment and to be able to come back to where it all started for me.”
Sharapova is excited for the competition to start on her own turf, as she has experienced first-hand how incredible it is to compete on a global stage.
She will have the best seat in the house to take in the action in her role as a television commentator during the event. This caps off a busy few months for the tennis star. In late December, Sharapova introduced her Nike Free TR 4 iD collaboration. A week later, her New Year’s Crush Workout championed the launch of the new Nike+ Training Club App.