Maria Sharapova Wants to Hit the Books Again at Harvard Business School

The tennis star talks coming back to Boston, what she learned during her trip to Harvard over the summer, and more.

Maria Sharapova

Photo by Scott Eisen / Getty Images for Sugarpova

After spending a lifetime honing her skills on the court, Maria Sharapova now has her sights set on taking over the business world. The tennis star hopes to expand the reach of her various ventures, including her candy brand Sugarpova, which is why she hit the books at Harvard Business School over the summer. Prior to speaking at the Forbes Under 30 Summit, she returned to Boston on Monday to greet fans and promote her collections of sweets at Star Market in Chestnut Hill. Ahead, we chatted with Sharapova about her trip back to town, if she plans on returning to Harvard, and how she balances her business aspirations with being a top athlete.

How are excited are you to be back in Boston for a few days?

My first time in the city was a couple of months ago when I came to do a few executive programs at Harvard. I loved the city. I loved the town. I loved being on campus. Even though it’s just a really short trip back, it’s great, obviously to promote my candy brand here, and just to see tennis fans come across the street from the club to say hello. It’s really meaningful. Some I’m meeting for the first time. Some haven’t even seen me play live before. Just some really nice interactions.

How was your experience at Harvard and what sort of business tips and tricks did you pick up?

I felt like I got to learn from, not only professors, but fellow students as well that were there from all over the world. As I’m growing Sugarpova, it’s really about learning things like distribution, which markets to grow in first, and why you choose them over others.

Will you be spending more time at Harvard in the near future?

I’m coming back on tour in April, so I’ll be training until then, but I would love to. I spoke to a few friends of mine and I would love to come back with them and do it together.

Since athletic careers don’t last forever, do you believe it’s important for sports stars to pursue business opportunities off the court?

I think everyone has a choice and it’s a matter of what you choose and what you enjoy doing. I love learning about subjects that I’m not very familiar with. I’ve grown up playing tennis and I didn’t have a formal education. I went through high school online and then didn’t go to university, obviously, because of my schedule. I love learning from people that know subjects that I don’t know. Even if you don’t use it, particularly, I think it helps develop your mind.

Do you believe having the work ethic and competitiveness of an athlete helps you in the business world?

I definitely bring my competitiveness into business. I think that’s important. We all want to succeed in something that we contribute our time and efforts into. We want to see it grow and, especially when you’re passionate about something, those two align very well.

Maria Sharapova

Photo by Scott Eisen / Getty Images for Sugarpova

Is it hard to balance being a tennis star with growing your business?

I think it’s important to be diverse. It’s important to put your mind in other areas so you grow yourself as well. There’s only so much you can do away from the courts, once you leave training or once you leave a match or a tournament. I actually find it helps me because it takes my mind off the daily, physical grind of what I do.

You recently became an investor in the UFC along with a bunch of Boston stars, including Ben Affleck and Tom Brady. What made you want to get into the fight business and should we expect to see you in the ring any time soon?

Definitely not in the ring. It was a really good investment opportunity for me. I know enough to invest in it. I wouldn’t say I’m incredibly passionate, but I saw the potential in the sport and its growth from an athlete’s perspective. I actually had no idea how many people invested in it until it came out in the paper. I just thought it had amazing potential to grow. I know how big it is in the United States. I think there are many markets it can grow into.

This interview has been edited and condensed.