Maria Sharapova, in Indian Wells, on Wednesday
Indian Wells: Maria Sharapova had her first memorable Olympic moment in the 2012 Summer Games in London, earning a silver medal in the women’s tennis singles competition. But her biggest Olympic moment came in a Games that didn’t even feature her sport.
“Probably the torch is the biggest honour I could have received,” Sharapova said of being part of the torch relay in the main stadium for last month’s Winter Olympics in her native Russia. “It was one of those moments where it happened so fast. I was so happy.”
Sharapova, a four-time Grand Slam winner and a two-time and defending champion of the BNP Paribas Open, was a major presence at the Sochi Olympics without competing in a single event.
As one of Russia’s most famous and recognizable athletes and with her connections to sports and media in the United States, Sharapova was a natural to help broadcasters with its two-week coverage of the Games.
That was especially true in Sochi, where Sharapova first started hitting a tennis ball against a wall in a park called Riviera.
“Everyone starts from somewhere, whether it’s a big city or a small city,” Sharapova said. “For me, my career started in Sochi and on that wall and those courts right next to it. So to be able to look back to where you started and where your tennis roots began I think for every player is special.”
Sharapova was featured in several segments for NBC giving a tour of the city while also sitting in studio with main NBC host Bob Costas. While the studio segment was taped as well as the tour of Sochi, it gave Sharapova an appreciation of just how difficult broadcasting can be.
“I got to spend in-studio time with the best there is. Bob Costas, to see him do his work and the repetition in the work,” Sharapova said. “He would deliver lines and he wouldn’t like it he would do it over. That was really great.”
With the Olympics over, Sharapova can return her focus to tennis and her drive for a third title in Indian Wells.
“After Sochi it was great to come back and get back on the court,” she said. “From the time I started training to the Australian Open and Paris is a few months on the court. So it was great to get a break and then start again.
“I love this period of time of Indian Wells, Miami. I’ve been quite successful with it in the past and obviously a great memory last year (a 6-2, 6-2 win in the finals over Caroline Wozniacki). So it’s nice to be back,” Sharapova added.