The Siberian Siren
“When I was working my way to the top of tennis, I didn't say I was number two. I said I wanted to be number one.” Maria Sharapova
Russian professional tennis player Maria Sharapova, also known as The Siberian Siren, is a three-time Grand Slam winner. Entering the professional circuit in 2001, the former student of the prestigious Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Florida picked up the title at the 2004 Wimbledon after beating two-time defending champion Serena Williams. At the time, 17-year-old Sharapova became the third youngest player to win the tournament. She won her second title at the 2006 U.S. Open and her third at the 2008 Australia Open. Since her Wimbledon triumph, the world's highest-paid female athlete in 2006 has become one of the best 10 players in the world and even became No. 1 in the world in August 2005, a post she recaptured in May 2008. Sharapova also won the 2004 WTA Tour Championship.
Also a model, Sharapova has appeared in Sports Illustrated magazine and in TV commercials for Cannon digital camera and Palmolive, among others. She was chosen one of FHM's “100 Sexiest Women in the World” and one of People Magazine's “50 Most Beautiful People” (both 2005). In 2007, she ranked No. 17 on the Maxim magazine “Hot 100” list.
Sharapova was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in February 2007. She donated $100,000 to the UNDP Chernobyl-recovery project.
In her spare time, Sharapova enjoys dancing, singing, reading and watching movies. She mentions “Pearl Harbor” as her favorite movie and the “Sherlock Holmes” and “Pippi Longstocking” series as her favorite books. She has a dog named Dolce.
Childhood and Family:
Maria Yuryevna Sharapova was born in Nyagan, a town in the Siberian region of Russia, to Yuri Sharapov and Yelena. Her parents previously lived in Gomel, Belarus, and moved to Nyagan in 1986 to avoid the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Maria was born a year later on April 19, 1987.
Playing tennis by the time she was four years old, Maria soon emerged as a talented player and was spotted by tennis great Martina Navratilova a year later in an exhibition tournament in Moscow. It was Navratilova who suggested young Maria train at Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Brandenton, Florida. Maria moved the United States with her father at age 7 and began her intensive training at the academy two years later. Due to visa restrictions and her family's financial difficulties, she had to live separately from her mother for two years. She commented, “When I came to the United States it wasn't easy for me. I didn't see my mum for two years and I barely saw my dad for one year. I was living in a dormitory by myself and sacrificed a lot of things.”
Since then, Maria has resided in America although she maintains her Russian citizenship. She owns a home in Manhattan Beach, California, and recently bought a penthouse apartment in Netanya, Israel.
Maria, whose nickname is Masha, pursues her studies through correspondence on the Internet with the Keystone High School home schooling program. Her favorite subject is Sociology.
In and Off Court
On April 19, 2001, 14-year-old Sharapova kicked off her professional career by joining the junior circuit. In her rookie year, she won twenty five matches and only lost three. Along the way, she picked up three championships: Sacramento, Hilton Head and Pilsen in the Czech Republic. She enjoyed even more success the following season by scoring twenty six wins and collecting three more titles: Vancouver, Peachtree and Gunma in Japan.
Sharapova was given the chance to play a limited number of matches on the professional tour in 2002. In her initial professional tournament, she was defeated by Monica Seles in the second round at Indian Wells. By the end of the year, the gifted player rose to No. 186 on the WTA charts.
2003 saw Sharapova join the WTA Tour as a full-time player. Making her grand slam debut in the Australian Open, she won three qualifying matches at the tournament and achieved the same victory at the French Open. Although she lost the first round in both events, Sharapove did get the wild card to enter the main draw at Wimbledon where she was defeated by fellow Russian player Svetlana Kuznetsova in the forth round. At the U.S. Open, she lost the second round. In October 2003, Sharapova won her first singles title at the Tier III tournament in Tokyo, Japan. It was followed by a victory at the Tier III tournament in Quebec City, and partnering with Tamarine Tanasugarn, she won the doubles titles at Luxembourg and the Japanese Open. She ended the year at World No. 32 and was voted WTA's Newcomer of the Year.
Under the guidance of her father and Robert Lansdorp, Sharapova entered the 2004 season reaching the third round of the Australian Open. She then attained the quarter-finals at the French Open where Paola Suárez beat her in two sets. When the tour shifted to grass courts, she rebounded by winning the Edgbaston title after defeating Tatiana Golovin in the finals.
However, it was at Wimbledon that Sharapova experienced her first big triumph. Facing the defending champ Serena Williams in the finals, she successfully beat the important favorite and won her first Grand Slam title. The win made the 17-year-old Sharapova the third youngest Wimbledon women's champion and the first Russian to reach the coveted spot. Along the way, she defeated Ai Sugiyama in the quarterfinals and the then fifth-seeded and ex-World No. 1 Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals.
After the success, however, Sharapova had to deal with a series of setbacks. She lost to Myskina in the quarterfinals and Vera Zvonareva in the third round at the Tier I tournaments in San Diego and Montreal, respectively. She also lost in the tournament held in New Heaven. At the 2004 U.S. Open, French player Mary Pierce stopped her in the third round. Following another loss in the China Open in Beijing, in which she was beat by Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semifinals, Sharapova won the Tier IV tournament in Seoul, South Korea. She also successfully defended her Tokyo title. The 2004 WTA Most Improved Player and Player of the Year finished the year at World No. 4.
During the 2005 season, Sharapova became the only player to achieve semifinals at the Australia Open, the French Open and at Wimbledon. In addition, she won the Tier I event in Tokyo and the tournament in Doha as well as defended her Birmingham title, in which she defeated Jelena Jankovic. At the end of the year, after topping the world rank on August 22 and September 12, she became #4 in the world. Meanwhile, in her native country Russia, she attained the peak of her career by emerging as the No. 1 female tennis player. Still in 2005, Sharapova was named ESPYs' Best Female Tennis Player and won the Master of Sports of Russia and Prix de Citron Roland Garros Awards.
Sharapova lost to Justine Henin in the semifinals of the 2006 Australian Open and was defeated by Amélie Mauresmo at Wimbledon. Her massive breakthrough arrived when she defeated Mauresmo in the semifinals and world No. 2 Justine Henin in the finals to secure her second Grand Slam singles title. In addition to winning the U.S. Open, she also won the Tier I Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California, the Tier I Acura Classic in San Diego, the Tier I Zurich Open and the General Ladies Linz. She, however, only went to the semifinals at the WTA Tour Championships. Sharapova closed out the year ranking No. 2 in the world.
After the departure of Henin, Sharapova became No.1 at the 2007 Australian Open. Her dreams of becoming the first Russian woman to win the tournament were cut short by the Serena Williams, who defeated her in the finals. Despite her loss, Sharapova was able to regain the World No. 1 ranking. She went on to play in several tournaments, but injuries kept her from winning subsequent Grand Slam titles. She lost to Ana Ivanovicin in the semifinals at the French Open and to Venus Williams in the fourth round at Wimbledon. At the U.S. Open, she lost to 18-year-old Pole Agnieszka Radwanska. She had better luck at the Tier I Acura Classic in San Diego, California, which she won after beating Patty Schnyder. At the end of the year, Sharapova was named the WTA No. 5.
Recently, Sharapova won the 2008 Australian Open. She also won the Qatar Total Open in Doha, but was forced to withdraw from the Tier I Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, due to a shoulder injury. She returned to win the Tier II Bausch & Lomb Championship in Amelia Island, Florida, where she defeated Dominika Cibulkova in the finals, and was ranked World No. 4 after the tournament. As of May 19, 2008, she is ranked #1.
“The ranking has never been a big deal for me. My goal is just to keep winning tennis matches and the ranking will take care of itself.” Maria Sharapova
Off court, Sharapova is known as a model. Signed with IMG Models in November 2003, she has since done a number of endorsements, including print ads for TAGHeuer watches and TV commercials for Cannon's Power Shot compact digital camera, Palmolive and ESPN SportsCenter. She appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2006 and recently signed a four-year sponsorship agreement with Sony Ericsson.
United States Sports Academy: Female Athlete of the Month, January 2008
Australia Open: 2008
ESPY: Best Female Tennis Player, 2007
ESPY: Best International Female Athlete, 2007
ESPN: Hottest Female Athlete, 2007
U.S. Open: 2006
Whirlpool 6th Sense Player of the Year, 2006
Master of Sports of Russia: 2005
Prix de Citron Roland Garros: 2005
Russia's Tennis Federation: The Country's Best Female Player of the Year, 2005, 2006
ESPY: Best Female Tennis Player, 2005
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour: Most Improved Player and Player of the Year, 2004
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour: Newcomer of the Year, 2003