Maria Sharapova is a Russian former professional tennis player. Sharapova achieved a rare level of longevity in tennis, with several tennis pundits and former players calling Sharapova one of tennis’s best competitors.
Sharapova competed on the WTA tour from 2001 to 2020 and had been ranked world No. 1 in singles by the WTA on five separate occasions, for a total of 21 weeks.
She is one of ten women, and the only Russian, to hold the career Grand Slam. She is also an Olympic medalist, having won a silver medal in women’s singles at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Although she played under the banner of Russia with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), she has lived in and been a United States permanent resident since 1994.
- Full name: Maria Yuryevna Sharapova
- Profession: Tennis player
- Born: 19 April 1987 (age 32 years), Nyagan, Russia
- Height: 1.88 m
- Wimbledon: W (2004)
- Spouse: Sasha Vujačić (m. 2011–2012)
- French Open: W (2012, 2014)
- Country (sports): Russia
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About Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova was born on 19 April 1987, in Nyagan, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union.
Her parents, Yuri Sharapov and Yelena, are from Gomel, Byelorussian SSR. Concerned about the regional effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, they left their homeland shortly before Maria was born.
In 1989, when Sharapova was three, the family moved to Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia.
She hit her first tennis ball when she was 4 years old. Her father, Yuri, befriended Aleksandr Kafelnikov, whose son Yevgeny would go on to win two Grand Slam singles titles and become Russia’s first world No. 1 ranked tennis player.
Aleksandr gave Sharapova her first tennis racquet in 1991 when she was four, whereupon she began practicing regularly with her father at a local park.
Maria took her first tennis lessons with veteran Russian coach Yuri Yutkin, who was instantly impressed when he saw her play, noting her “exceptional hand-eye coordination”.
In 1993, at the age of six, Sharapova attended a tennis clinic in Moscow run by Martina Navratilova, who recommended professional training with Nick Bollettieri at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, who had previously trained players such as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, and Anna Kournikova.
With money tight, Yuri Sharapov borrowed the sum that would enable him and his daughter, neither of whom could speak English, to travel to the United States, which they finally did in 1994.
Visa restrictions prevented Sharapova’s mother from joining them for two years. Arriving in Florida with savings of US$700, Sharapova’s father took various low-paying jobs to fund her lessons until she was old enough to be admitted to the academy.
Initially, she trained with Rick Macci. In 1995, however, she was signed by IMG, who agreed to pay the annual tuition fee of $35,000 for Sharapova to stay at the Academy, allowing her to finally enrol at the age of 9.
Sharapova became the world No. 1 for the first time on 22 August 2005, at the age of 18, becoming the first Russian female tennis player to top the singles rankings, and last held the ranking for a fifth time for four weeks from 11 June 2012, to 8 July 2012.
She won five Grand Slam titles — two at the French Open and one each at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open, winning 36 titles in total, including the year-ending WTA Finals in her debut in 2004. She also won three doubles titles.
Sharapova has been featured in a number of modelling assignments, including a feature in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She has appeared in many advertisements, including those for Nike, Prince, and Canon, and has been the face of several fashion houses, most notably Cole Haan.
Since February 2007, she has been a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, concerned specifically with the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme.
In June 2011, she was named one of the “30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present and Future” by Time and in March 2012 was named one of the “100 Greatest of All Time” by Tennis Channel.
According to Forbes, she has been named highest-paid female athlete in the world for 11 consecutive years and earned US$285 million (including prize money) since she turned pro in 2001.
In 2018, she launched a new programme to mentor women entrepreneurs.
In March 2016, Sharapova revealed she had failed a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open.
She had tested positive for meldonium, a substance that had been banned (effective January 1, 2016) by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
On 8 June 2016, she was suspended from playing tennis for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
On 4 October 2016, the suspension was reduced to 15 months, starting from the date of the failed test, as the Court of Arbitration for Sports found that she had committed “no significant fault” and that she had taken the substance “based on a doctor’s recommendation… with good faith belief that it was appropriate and compliant with the relevant rules”.
She returned to the WTA Tour on 26 April 2017 at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.