Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic treated tennis fans with an entertaining Instagram Live this Tuesday. The Grand Slam champions chatted over an hour, revealing details about their first meeting and subsequent date, Sharapova’s smooth transition from tennis to a new phase in her life, and the origin of the Russian’s fierce on-court attitude.
The live chat opened with a funny story about how they first got to know each other. Sharapova was absolutely open, saying how their first meeting happened a long time ago, way before Djokovic had any Grand Slam titles or even ATP titles, during a mixed doubles exhibition match in La Quinta, California.
You said that if you’d win, I would have to pay dinner. I was like, ‘Whatever, who is this kid.’ And you won, and you were like, ‘We are having dinner tonight, we are going to a Japanese place.’ I was like, ‘Are you serious? You and me going to dinner tonight.’ So we did, we ended up going to dinner. You pulled out an old Kodak camera and you asked the waiter to take a photo. And here we are now I think you behaved like a fan that day (laughs).
Unfortunately, we will never see that historic photo, as Novak lost that Kodak camera. Looking at Novak’s facial expressions, I’d say he was a little embarrassed by this story, but he confirmed that everything Maria said was true.
Later on, Djokovic praised Sharapova’s super smooth transition from tennis to retirement, so the Russian explained how she’s managed to successfully open a new phase in her life, something most former tennis players struggle with:
Despite finishing something that was a huge part of my career, I was really motivated for what was to come and ready to go. I certainly had some ideas. I’ve built an amazing base. I’ve had many interests away from the court, I utilized my spare time really well, I’ve built really good networks and relationships with people and companies, and my interest in business, technology, investments, architecture and art. I’ve tried to learn as much as I could while I was on the road, which was really difficult.
The fact that her body was craving for rest helped her make the difficult decision:
It was no longer like winning the match, the feeling of victory. It’s been somewhat of a transitional relief that I’m not putting my body through that any more.
Explaining to Novak how she managed to always have that level of intensity on the court, Maria said that the roots of it are in her beginnings, her early days in the United States, when she was always the odd one out, sort of a duckling that would be in her own little world, very skinny and frail, with limited English language skills. Focus and concentration, her innate strengths, together with hard work, compensated for her lack of physicality and super natural talent.