Tennis Legend Maria Sharapova on the Secret to Winning | The Deal with Alex Rodriguez & Jason Kelly

Tennis Legend Maria Sharapova on the Secret to Winning | The Deal with Alex Rodriguez & Jason Kelly

Introduction (00:00:00)

  • Maria Sharapova won her first Wimbledon at 17, defeating Serena Williams.
  • Her success led to a Motorola deal and made her one of the most famous athletes in the world.
  • Alex Rodriguez and Jason Kelly are excited to discuss Sharapova's business ventures and how she has translated her athletic success into business success.
  • Maria Sharapova is a five-time grand slam champion, a mother, an entrepreneur, and a curious human being.
  • She is known for her willingness to be vulnerable and raw in telling her story.
  • Sharapova never allowed herself to believe she had something special because she didn't want to become complacent or overconfident.
  • She believes that believing in one's own hype can lead to unmet expectations and a lack of internal growth.

Early days and Maria’s relationship with her dad (00:03:06)

  • Maria Sharapova overcame imposter syndrome by embracing her differences and focusing on her vision, despite her humble beginnings as an immigrant.
  • Sharapova's potential became evident when she represented the US at 15, competing against older and stronger opponents.
  • Sharapova's confidence stemmed from her upbringing in a loving and supportive environment, which encouraged her to strive for greatness without fearing failure.
  • Her parents' decision to move to the United States when she was five proved pivotal in her tennis journey, despite the risks involved.
  • Sharapova's determination and the support of various individuals, including her father, shaped her successful career.
  • Sharapova's father played a significant role in her tennis career, providing financial support and coaching, but she eventually decided to end their professional partnership after winning her third Grand Slam title.
  • Despite the challenges, Sharapova and her father maintained a strong relationship, with him remaining her first point of contact after matches.

IMG Academy (00:14:14)

  • Maria Sharapova and her father arrived at the IMG Academy on a Greyhound bus in the middle of the night.
  • They were initially turned away but were allowed to stay after impressing the coaches with Maria's talent.
  • Maria was seven and a half years old at the time.
  • IMG provided financial investment for Maria's training, which her father greatly appreciated.
  • Maria felt a strong aversion to owing money to others due to her past financial struggles.

Signing with Nike at 11 years old (00:16:46)

  • Maria signed with Nike at the age of 11, but she did not fully comprehend the significance of the deal at the time.
  • To her, the main benefit was having access to free tennis skirts.
  • It was only after winning Wimbledon as a teenager that Maria realized the magnitude of her achievement and the importance of her Nike contract.

Winning Wimbledon for the first time (00:17:34)

  • Maria Sharapova's Wimbledon victory at age 17 transformed her career, leading to lucrative deals with companies like Nike and Motorola.
  • Despite her newfound success, Sharapova stayed motivated by setting small, personal goals, such as hotel upgrades and providing for her family.
  • To maintain her work ethic and mental well-being, Sharapova prioritized vacations with loved ones, disconnecting from the demands of her tennis career.
  • Before her Wimbledon triumph, Sharapova's intense daily routine included rigorous training, tournament participation, and media responsibilities, emphasizing the importance of breaks to prevent burnout.
  • Sharapova's competitive spirit was evident from a young age, as she expressed frustration at not being in the French Open final while watching it in a hotel room.
  • Driven by her competitive nature, Sharapova relentlessly trained and strived for victory, even before her Wimbledon breakthrough.
  • Despite her accomplishments, Sharapova still feels a strong desire to win and imagines herself on the stage when others win tournaments she competed in.
  • Losses serve as motivation for Sharapova to return to practice and improve her skills.

The story behind Maria’s Motorola deal (00:23:34)

  • Maria Sharapova tried to call her mom after winning a tennis match but couldn't reach her because she was on a flight.
  • A week later, Sharapova signed a global deal with Motorola.
  • The deal wasn't financially significant, but it was a great brand alignment for Sharapova.
  • Motorola was about to launch its new product, the "razor phone," and Sharapova was one of the first people to use it.
  • The deal got Sharapova on billboards in major cities around the world and opened up more opportunities for her.
  • Sharapova and her team were conscious of the cultural relevance of the deal and the importance of choosing the right partnerships for her career.
  • Sharapova considered factors such as the team, founder, product, and market when evaluating potential deals.

Alex & Maria on the deals they missed (00:26:04)

  • Maria Sharapova missed out on a potential $50 million investment in Uber due to a missed wire transfer deadline, emphasizing the importance of taking calculated risks and trusting one's instincts.
  • Sharapova stresses personal responsibility and control over decisions to avoid missed opportunities, sharing an example of an investment in a failed app with potential but challenges due to its complex user interface.
  • Despite the absence of a traditional team environment in tennis, Sharapova acknowledges the crucial role of her support team in her victories and achievements, expressing gratitude for their contributions.
  • Sharapova highlights the individual responsibility and pressure athletes face during critical moments, where relying on mechanics, coaches, or external strategies becomes less relevant.

Why Alex owes Maria some deals (00:31:09)

  • Maria was the first to join a Zoom call for a business investment discussion, without any handlers or team members.
  • She was engaged, taking notes, and asking intelligent questions.
  • Alex was so impressed that he forgot to call Maria about other deals.
  • Maria prefers to thoroughly experience a product before investing in it.
  • She wants to live with the product, breathe it, try it, and wear it.
  • She seeks feedback from friends and family with different tastes and aesthetics.
  • She won't proceed with an investment until she and her network are enthusiastic about the product.

Why Maria decided to retire (00:33:04)

  • Maria Sharapova decided to retire from tennis at the age of 32.
  • Her body was challenged for several years and stubbornness was getting in the way of better things.
  • She was ready for the next chapter of her life, including starting a family.
  • She had built a strong foundation of strength, resiliency, focus, and determination through tennis, which she could apply to business.
  • She acknowledged that it takes time to build strength in a new arena and that she was still growing and learning.
  • Her mother reminded her to have other things to offer and say beyond just sports, encouraging her to read and stay curious.

Maria’s investment philosophy & Supergoop! (00:36:01)

  • Maria Sharapova's first investment was in Supergoop!, a sunscreen brand she personally used and loved.
  • She approached the founder and offered her support, including her time, platform, and voice, to help grow the brand.
  • Supergoop! eventually sold 75% of its stake for close to a billion dollars, making it a successful investment for Maria.
  • Maria believes in investing in products and missions she resonates with and where she can add value through her platform and network.
  • She emphasizes the importance of understanding the founders' mentality and their ability to handle both winning and losing.

How the pressure of sports translates to business (00:38:29)

  • Acceptance that things won't always go well despite the best intentions, preparation, mindset, and team.
  • Work ethic from a young age, understanding that nothing comes easy.
  • Checking ego and surrounding oneself with better people with complementary skills and aligned vision.
  • Passion and not punching a clock, willing to work around the clock to get the job done.
  • Persistence, resilience, and the ability to deal with turbulence and public noise.
  • Athletes have a tremendous track record and are prepared to be good at business.
  • 80% of Fortune 500 female CEOs have had a high-intensity sports background due to the lessons learned in sports, such as resiliency, coping with pressure, and taking care of one's body and mind.

Maria’s 5 year plan (00:42:21)

  • Maria Sharapova does not have a specific North Star for her business career at 45 or 50.
  • She is focused on her current platform and is not in a rush to achieve anything specific.
  • She recognizes that her business career will require years of work and ups and downs, similar to her tennis career.
  • Maria is curious and not afraid to take chances or intimidating roles, such as her position on the board of Montclair.
  • She enjoys the work and the responsibility that comes with being in such a position.
  • Maria emphasizes the importance of strategy and vision, which she developed as an athlete.
  • Her North Star after baseball was team ownership, which she is currently pursuing with the Timberwolves.
  • Maria is excited about the increasing involvement of women in team ownership across various sports.
  • Maria is not driven by trends or popularity in her business decisions.
  • She believes in the power of individuals and wants to bring their stories to light.
  • Maria sees her involvement more in supporting individual athletes rather than leagues or media rights.

The future of tennis (00:46:18)

  • The tennis schedule and system need improvements.
  • The current season lasts for 10 months out of the year.
  • Several different federations and grand slams are not connected to the rest of the tour.
  • There is inequality in the sport.
  • The new generation of tennis players are spectacular and will lead the sport.
  • Breakpoint was the first tennis interview Maria Sharapova did since her retirement.
  • She felt a healthy distance from tennis and enjoyed sharing her vision without being involved.
  • Maria believes tennis is a tricky sport to analyze due to its complex schedule, equipment, and player injuries.
  • She prefers to understand the sport's intricacies before considering investments.
  • Alex Rodriguez expresses interest in collaborating with Maria Sharapova on a future deal.
  • Maria is intrigued by Alex's platform and wants to be a part of it.
  • They agree to discuss a potential partnership in the future.

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