Tennis star Maria Sharapova is a fierce competitor on the court, a knockout on the red carpet and an incredibly savvy businesswoman. She shares her secrets to keeping all those balls in the air.
"I have a competitive drive," Maria Sharapova says. "It's ferocious and powerful, and it's about winning." They're bold words, though in person, the 27-year-old comes across as entirely unassuming, even a little shy, as she orders a latte in skinny jeans and python ballet flats. But neither the pretty, leafy setting of the café where we meet, which happens to be in Wimbledon Village, nor her soft tone of voice distract from the power of her message. Sharapova is a hellion on the court—as those who've watched her since she stormed onto the women's tennis tour 10 years ago, snatching victory from Serena Williams in a historic match, already know. She's no slouch off the court, either: In the last decade, deal by deal, venture by venture, she's become Brand Maria, extending her reach into fashion, philanthropy, beauty, even sweets, and topping the 2014 Forbes list of the world's highest-paid female athletes.
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Sharapova and I are on the village's High Street as we talk, and the specter of the upcoming tournament hovers around us. She'll end up not making it to the quarterfinals this time, but at this moment, she is calm. It's three days after her landmark win at the French Open.
She says, with a laugh: "After I did a picture with the trophy, I got on the train [to London] with a friend, and we're lugging our bags around, and I was, like, 'Wait, I just won the French Open yesterday! Where are the butlers?'" She's joking, but with everything she's pulled off, a butler really might seem fitting.
Yet Sharapova talks about her career as if it were just another day at the office, one where she is both the talent and the CEO. Looking back on how it all started—well, imagine if it were you, and you were 17: "I was very inexperienced," she says. "But I was not nervous at all. As soon as I got out there onto the court, it was like I had horse blinders on. You get this narrow vision."
After Sharapova, leggy and hugely ambitious, achieved that 2004 milestone, she could easily have shared the same fate as other players whose games never lived up to their marketing. And the marketing came on strong, dubbed Maria Mania, with an immediate Motorola deal and Sports Illustrated cover. But Sharapova turned out to have a vision that was both wide and deep: She signed those deals, and she continued to put in the hard work, developing a signature swing volley, a monster forehand and a shriek so loud when she made the tough shots that some have speculated it's simply a tactic to rattle her opponents.
In the last 10 years, she's shown that she is exceptionally committed to both her game and her businesses. Brands such as Tiffany & Co. and Avon have come calling, and she's designed a signature shoe and bag collection for Cole Haan since 2009. As for her own appearance, "When I'm out on the court, I'm not thinking about how I look," she says. "I do my ponytail in two seconds, and I'm not wearing a stitch of makeup. I'm confident in my skin, and I'm there to play the game." Still, her on-court style has undergone its own evolution. "Coming onto that first Wimbledon, there were two other girls wearing my same dress," she says. Winning put an end to that, as Nike started to create custom-designed gear for her, and she went through a phase of head-turning getups: a satin-and-crystal-trimmed little black number for the 2006 U.S. Open, a dress for the 2008 French Open that was accented with a Tiffany pearl, a Mediterranean-blue dress with a mesh overlay for the 2007 French.
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She looks back on all of these ensembles with fondness, but today she is more minimalist. Partly, it's maturity—"I was a teenager. Of course I loved pinks and patterns!"—but mostly, it's business. "Those one-off pieces were great for entertainment value," she says, but since 2010, she has helped mastermind the Maria Sharapova Collection for Nike. "Designing for the mass market has really changed my thinking process and my on-court look. Even if I want to be the one pushing fashion on the court, today I want to do it in a way that a woman playing in a doubles league can wear, too." To many observers of the game, she's never looked better. The same could be said of her off-duty style, a mix of cool-kid designers such as Rick Owens, Isabel Marant and Raquel Allegra, all worn with offhand confidence.
That sense of how to put an outfit together has helped Sharapova on the red carpet, and she's signed on to be a face of the CFDA's Fashion Targets Breast Cancer initiative. She also fronts Avon's new fragrance, Luck, starring in a glossy campaign shot by Pamela Hanson. It's not her first time at the perfume rodeo, but this time her heart is in it. "I did my own scent once, and it wasn't my thing," she says. "I felt like I was doing the same thing that every other famous person was doing. This time, it's been a lot of fun."
This article originally appeared on Self.com.