The 26-year-old Russian recently launched her own confectionery brand, Sugarpova, in the UK, after launches in the US and other countries last year.
The confectionery range included a variety of sugary and sour confectionery in shapes such as tennis balls and lips. The 12-flavour range boasts brands such as:Flirty, Smitten Sour and Splashy.
“Business and sport are both very competitive worlds, and I want to be the best in both,” said Sharapova.
Business and sport
But not everyone is hoping the 2004 Wimbledon champion’s court success will be matched by her confectionery business.
The National Obesity Forum (NOF) said Sharapova was being “irresponsible” for using her sporting stardom to promote unhealthy eating.
“Maria promoting her sugary sweets is OK but only if she makes clear that you can only eat sweets like that every day and look like her if you are playing tennis 15 hours a day,” a NOF spokesman told Reuters.
The world’s highest paid athlete should consider the unintended consequences of promoting such confectionery, he added.
Answering criticism that Sugarpova encouraged unhealthy eating, Sharapova said: “I am an athlete, so I am one of the first to know what is important for the body, and a healthy lifestyle. At the end of the day, things are fine if taken in moderation.”
The idea of launching a confectionery range – backed by her own money – occurred to the tennis star during the nine months she spent recovering from a shoulder injury in 2008-09.
Chernobyl nuclear crisis
From the beginning she decided that a proportion of sales from the Sugarpova collection would be donated to the charity the Maria Sharapova Foundation. The charity supports children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear crisis.
Sharapova admits on the business website: “I’ve always had a sweet tooth.My earliest memory of candy is being a little girl back in Russia and asking my parents for a lollipop after a good practice on the tennis court. It was that little treat I looked forward to. And here I am, many years later, hoping to get a sweet treat after a good practice.”
But it was creating her own business rather than profit that was the main motivation for launching Sugarpova. “I have been a part of many projects, collections, collaborations, shoots, but at the end of the day I was always just that … a little part of it.
“So, I put my thinking hat on and realised I wanted to start something on my own. Something that could bring the fun and passion of gummy candies to life and can be my own little project from start to finish.”
Sharapova has served up total career earnings of £17M ($26M), according to US business publication Forbes. She is rated as the 22nd highest paid athlete in the world, and the top female one.