Maria Sharapova tells how she planned, informed father about dropping him as coach

After winning her third Grand Slam title, Sharapova made a big coaching move.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Maria Sharapova tells how she planned, informed father about dropping him as coach
© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Lewis

Maria Sharapova revealed she was carefully planning on how to notify her father Yuri Sharapov about her decision to end their partnership and also praised her father for doing his best to understand the situation and accept it. 

Sharapova, who made her first tennis steps with her father in Russia, moved to the United States when she was just seven after Yuri Sharapov was advised by Martina Navratilova to do so. During the entire process, Yuri became very much involved in Sharapova's development and that remained when his daughter eventually turned pro. 

But it wasn't like working with her father wasn't paying off as Sharapova was just 17 when she famously became a Grand Slam champion at 2004 Wimbledon and just 18 when she became the world No. 1 for the first time in 2005. While Sharapova was off to an outstanding start to her career, she soon realized that she would need a new voice if she wanted to give something else to her game. 

Maria Sharapova and Yuri Sharapov
Maria Sharapova and Yuri Sharapov© Getty Images Sport - Bob Martin
 

After beating Ana Ivanovic in the 2008 Australian Open final for her third Grand Slam title, Sharapova - who was 20 at the time - decided it was time to make that move. 

"Tennis-wise, I have to give him so much credit. He was in his early 30s with $700 in his back pocket. He was trying to find any kind of job that would help support, you know, string my next racquet for my next tournament," Sharapova said on Bloomberg's The Deal with Alex Rodriguez & Jason Kelly.

"The greatest gift that he gave me was acknowledging that at some point he will have to step back. And for a father in sport, particularly in tennis, as a father of a girl that's won Grand Slams with him, is a very tough acceptance to have

"I did that after my third Grand Slam at the Australian Open. I wanted to have that independency. It was more for me than anything else. It was not about money, not about victories.

"I won the Australian Open and I drafted a really good email. I just thought I was gonna do this much better on email and craft my thoughts better. And I did. And I couldn't look at him in the face while saying that. But I also knew that he knew it was coming. He just didn't think it was gonna happen after I just won my third Grand Slam."

Maria Sharapova and Yuri Sharapov
Maria Sharapova and Yuri Sharapov© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Sharapova's coaches after splitting with her father; the role her father then had

After parting ways with her father, Sharapova continued to work with Michael Joyce, who was a part of her coaching staff since 2004. But shortly after winning the 2008 Australian Open, Sharapova started to deal with a serious shoulder injury and had to surgically repair it. That negatively impacted Sharapova's results and the next few years were pretty rough and challenging for the Russian. 

In 2011, Sharapova decided it was time to also call quits on her partnership with coach Joyce. After that move - Thomas Hogstedt - who was added to the team in late 2010, left as the Russian's lone coach. A few years later, Sharapova also ended her collaboration with Hogstedt and worked with Sven Groeneveld between 2013 and 2018. When Sharapova retired in early 2020, Riccardo Piatti was her coach.

During that entire time, Yuri Sharapov kept a close contact with his daughter and was always there whenever she needed something. 

"I never really fired him. He was still very much involved. I guess the only thing that, and when you say fired, like you evolve, right? And that's one of the hardest, the challenges that I find now is like, what you needed two, three years ago, perhaps is not what you need for the future," Sharapova said.

"The fact that he was able to step back and say, 'Hey you do this.' He was still very much involved. He'd call all the coaches and speak to them after matches. He's always the first person I’d call. It wasn't like I went to my coach, I called my dad."

Maria Sharapova and Yuri Sharapov
Maria Sharapova and Yuri Sharapov© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Although Sharapova very early established herself as one of the best players in the game, clay courts weren't her strength and some believed she would never win it all at Roland Garros. But then, Sharapova made one of the most fascinating improvements seen on the WTA Tour in the 21st century as she won her fourth and fifth Grand Slams at the French Open in 2012 and 2014. In the end, Sharapova did something that no one could have predicted - she finished with the French Open being her most successful Slam. 

While parting ways with her father wasn't an easy decision to make, Sharapova did indeed manage to improve and evolve as a player after their split. 

Maria Sharapova
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