Maria Sharapova, the highest paid female athlete in the world, will never give up her Russian nationality to become a U.S. citizen, despite living there since she just 7 years old, the tennis star told CNBC Meets.
Sharapova, who won her first grand slam tennis tournament at the age of 17, said the "rich culture" of Russia helped shape her and changing citizenships has never been an issue.
"I would have if I wanted to (change citizenships) but it's never been actually a question in my family or in my team whether I wanted to change citizenships," Sharapova told Tania Bryer, host of CNBC Meets.
Known for her steely determination, both on court and off after the successful launch of her premium candy business, Sugarpova, the world's number two female tennis player, credits her competitive edge to her Russian heritage.
"It is about the family environment, it is about the rich culture. Just life experiences that I look back to and I know that for so many years I was shaped into the individual I was from those experiences. And not necessarily simply the country, but the people, the mentality and the toughness and that never giving up attitude," she said.
Sharapova described her experience as a torch bearer at the Sochi Winter Olympics in February last year as one of the best days in her career, as the Russian resort is where she started her tennis career.
"It was an honor. I really felt like it was one of the best days in my career and in my life really and it was one of the first times where I had my whole family in the stadium watching me. Going up the ramp and jogging to the whole nation with the torch. It was one of the most unique feelings I think I'll ever have," she said.
Speaking on soured relations between Russia and the U.S., Sharapova said she was "very sad", that her home country was going through such a "tough time" but as an athlete she does not want to get too involved.
"But I don't get involved in it too much because for me being an athlete, I get to represent a country that I'm very close to and that I spent so many years of my childhood in and that deep down inside makes me very happy," she added.
CNBC Meets: Maria Sharapova will air on 25 March at 23:00 CET