Maria Sharapova first picked up a tennis racket at age four in her hometown of Sochi, Russia. "At that time tennis wasn't a very big sport in Russia," she told CNBC in 2015. It "was very much a leisure activity that my dad liked to play in his free time and I would join him occasionally." But then, "one day, I picked up a racket and just went on my own — I think I was tired of watching him. I saw some kids playing in front of a wall and I joined them, and that's how my tennis history began."
Besides loving the game, she had extra incentive to practice: When she was young, "my dad would reward me with a lollipop or chocolate after a long day of practice," the athlete and entrepreneur recalls on her candy company website.
By age six, Sharapova showed so much promise that tennis legend Martina Navratilova noticed her and recommended her family move to the U.S. for more training opportunities. Shortly after, the rising star and her dad left her mom to develop her tennis at Nick Bollettieri's prestigious academy in Florida. They arrived with just $700 and rented a small, $250-a-month apartment.