One-on-one with Maria Sharapova on eve of Wimbledon

Maria Sharapova during "CBS This Morning" interview with Mark Phillips CBS

(CBS News) LONDON - Maria Sharapova is more than a tennis champion.

She's practically an industry, earning more money in prizes and endorsements than any other female athlete.

After a long comeback from injury, Sharapova is number one again on the women's tennis tour.

The women's' tennis circuit likes to market its top players like movie stars. It's just as well some of them look the part. None more so than Sharapova - six-feet-two-inches of statuesque glamor off the court, and the same measure of screeching power and determination on it.

After her victory in the French Open two weeks ago, which followed wins earlier in her career at the U.S. Open, the Australian Open and at Wimbledon, Sharapova is one of only eight women to achieve the career grand slam.

Now, she's back in London, about to begin another try for the Wimbledon title.

She says she was particularly pleased with herself after the French Open victory because, "I feel like I -- I worked so hard to get to that moment. You go through so many good days and bad days, and there are days where you think, 'Well, are the good days gonna be that worth it? Are they gonna feel so good?' And the moment I won match point, I got down on my knees. It's kinda that moment when everything comes together."

Sharapova says tennis players don't practice their victory dances, as some football or soccer players do, but she's, "seen photographs of me winning the four Grand Slams," she said with a laugh. "And my reactions are pretty much the same. I go on my knees and I do something and I'm quite -- quite shocked.

"But, I certainly don't practice it. I don't wanna jinx anything!" she laughed again.

Practicing, not victory celebrations, but hitting the ball, is what tennis players do. Even those ranked number one in their sport, which is what Maria Sharapova is, again, at the age of 25.

Just four years ago, it looked like she'd never return to top-level tennis, never mind win another championship.

She needed surgery on a recurring shoulder problem. It's the kind of injury that ends careers.

"I got injured at a pretty, you know, young age of 21," she reflected. "And that's usually not the age where you have to get shoulder surgery. And also not exactly an injury that I've known other players to come back from, especially in tennis."

Sharapova also says she's still hungry for more titles. To see more of the interview, click on the video below:

Did she ever think she wouldn't make it back?

"No - yeah - the comeback wasn't continuous, that's for sure. Yeah, anyone, I think, in my team would tell you that. And not just with the event, but emotionally as well, because as a tennis player, you come - I mean, six days a week, you wake up and you try to go and practice and improve and get better, and that's taken away from you. And you start waking up in the morning. And I was like, 'Well, I'm so sick of putting casual clothes on. I wanna put my Nike stuff on.'

"So, at the end of the day, I was really missing that."

The clothing reference is not an accident. Sharapova's endorsement contracts contribute to her $25 million-a-year income.

Not just clothes, but bags, watches.

Being a top tennis player is one thing. Having super-model looks to go along with the talent makes her the hottest property on the market, in so many ways.

But the world's top-earning woman athlete says it's still all about the tennis.

"It's not my job to judge," she chuckled. "It's somebody else's. So you know, first and foremost, I just - I have a tennis racket and a ball, and that's what I'm good at."

It's all a long way from the seven-year-old little girl tennis prodigy who was brought to the U.S. from Russia by her father and who, as she grew older, showed the two qualities that would make her - skill, and a killer instinct.

"They saw how much I loved going out and competing against somebody. And I was never the one that liked to practice and hit millions of balls, even though I knew it was good for me. But when I saw somebody across the net, I just wanted to win. And I think that they -- they saw that, they saw the desire, they saw that I wanted, you know, that the passion I had for the sport, and they did everything they could to make me better."

How big a role did having a "tennis stage parent" have in making Sharapova as successful as she is?

"Well, at the end of the day, where are you gonna be without that driving force?" she responded.

Her father, Yuri, doesn't travel with her anymore.

There's a new man in her life - her fiance, basketball player Sasha Vujacic.

But Sharapova says she'll "probably wait a little bit" - perhaps until she's finished playing tennis - to get married.

So, at 25, she's done it all - and has more money than she can ever spend. Why go on? Does she love the game, or hate it?

"That's a tough question," Sharapova conceded with a laugh."There are so many things I love about it. I really do. But there are days where ... like I said, (I think), 'How many years are you gonna do this for?' But I don't think that you will see me so much around it in the daily life of the sport when I'm done."

And it's fun as long as you're winning?

"Well, that helps!" Sharapova replied, "but it's not always about the winning. It's sport, so... "

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.

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