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“Tough Father” for a Strong Fairy

Posted October. 01, 2004 22:01,   


The father seems extremely busy. He watches the game in a very serious manner, differing from the audience. He meets the competition officials to receive the training schedule and a tennis court assignment. He also fixes the racket strings for her. During the training, he picks up a racket and acts as a coach. When the game is over, he delivers spaghetti and salad to his daughter. There is no other person more devoted to his daughter.

He is Yuri Sharapova (43), the father of the “tennis fairy” Maria Sharapova (17, Russia). He accompanied his daughter, who is participating at the Hansol Korea Open, to Korea. Yuri has multiple roles—a father, a manager, and a coach—toward his daughter while traveling the world together during the past year. There is not much to say about Wimbledon champion Sharapova if her father is not mentioned.

It was her father who put a tennis racket in her hand at the age of four. It was also he who flew to the U.S., holding his seven-year-old daughter in one hand and only $700 in his other hand. He waited tables and worked at construction sites, whatever job he could get, to take care of his daughter. From his little knowledge of tennis, he taught her how to serve and volley.

After enduring all kinds of struggles, Yuri was the happiest person with Sharapova’s success, and yet, he does not show himself in the public eye. Even in Korea, he avoids interaction with others, always wearing a pair of black sunglasses. “I am not the star. My daughter deserves the spotlight.”

Yuri is still stern towards his teenage daughter. Instead of complimenting her, he is more used to pointing out her mistakes and scolding her. Even when watching a game, he is more focused in finding faults instead of applauding her. Yuri says he acts dispassionately because his daughter still needs a lot of practice.

Behind a famous sports star, there usually is a strict father. For “golf emperor” Tiger Woods (U.S.), there is Earl Woods, and for “golf queen” Pak Se-ri (CJ), there is the “great mentor” Park Jun-cheol. Even though one needs to step out of one’s father’s shadow to become a true world champion, for Sharapova, it is still a distant story.

“After I became famous, I found so many people around me. However, if it weren’t for my father beside me during my tough and difficult times, I couldn’t be here at this moment. Thank you very much, father.”

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com