Sharapova planning for tennis-free future
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova throws her head back and bursts out laughing.
"10 years? No," she chuckles to herself. "I don't think I'm going to be playing for another 10 years -- I'd love to have a family at 30 already!"
It is, perhaps, no surprise that at the tender age of 20 she should already be thinking of life beyond professional tennis.
The Russian is entering her fifth year on the WTA Tour, has a brace of grand slam titles for her efforts, climbed the summit to world number one and has amassed a fortune from the courts.
One of the more recognisable faces in sport, Sharapova has graced countless magazine covers and, according to internet search engine Google, just under 200,000 Web sites are dedicated to her.
However, sitting in a luxury hotel suite in Melbourne wearing grey trousers and a matching top with little jewellery or make-up, she appeared relaxed ahead of the Australian Open, confident in the knowledge her not-too-distant future will be spent away from the tennis world.
"I definitely want to go to college," Sharapova told Reuters.
Home schooled from around the time she first picked up a tennis racquet aged four, Sharapova now intends to follow in the footsteps of fellow tour professional Venus Williams and go to university.
OLD FASHIONED WAY
Unlike Williams, who completed her studies part-time around the rigours of the tour and graduated late last year, the tall Russian intends to replicate what millions of other undergraduates do every year.
Classrooms. Books. Organised timetables.
Though with career earnings of more than $10 million and many, many more in sponsorship and endorsements, including her role as Sony Ericsson's first global ambassador, it is doubtful she will be sharing a dormitory room or eating cafeteria food.
"I would love to do it in the old fashioned way where I go to a classroom and study," she smiled.
"I was home schooled. From kindergarten to high school I was taught by my mum.
"For four years of high school I was doing it through the internet, so I would love to have the experience of going to a school."
Sharapova has an interest in fashion design -- "I have been drawing and making thing since I was young" -- and is planning to head to London's famous Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
"Stella McCartney and Matthew Williamson went there," she points out.
Last year, the former figure skater also dabbled in the world of sports politics when she was a bid ambassador for Sochi's 2014 Winter Olympics bid. She moved from Siberia to the Black Sea resort when she was two before leaving for the United States at seven.
"They won," she said with a smile, "but I think I'll just be a spectator there. I don't have any plans to get involved.
"It's six years away and I don't know if I'll still be playing tennis, but I'll definitely be there in the stands.
"Russia have never hosted a Winter Olympics so they're more excited about that because they're one of the leading countries in winter sports.
"It's (Sochi) gorgeous there already but now it's going to be modernised that will bring more people into the area."
(Editing by Ossian Shine)
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