Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (Russian Мария Юрьевна Шарапова, IPA: [mɐˈrʲijə ˈjurʲjɪvnə ʂɐˈrapəvə] ( listen); born April 19, 1987) is a Russian professional tennis player and a former World No. 1. Sharapova has won 23 WTA singles titles, including 3 Grand Slam singles titles at the 2004 Wimbledon, 2006 US Open and 2008 Australian Open. She has also won the year-end invitational WTA Tour Championships in 2004.
The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has ranked her World No. 1 in singles on 4 separate occasions. She became the World No. 1 for the first time on Aug 22, 2005 and last regained this ranking for the fourth time on May 19, 2008. She is currently ranked World No. 6.
Sharapova made her professional breakthrough in 2004 when, at age 17, she upset two-time defending champion and top seed Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final for her first Grand Slam singles title. She entered the top ten of the WTA Rankings with this win. Despite not winning a major in 2005, Sharapova briefly held the number one ranking, and reached three Grand Slam semifinals, losing to the eventual champion each time. She won her second major at the 2006 US Open defeating then-World No. 1 Amélie Mauresmo in the semifinals and World No. 2 Justine Henin in the final. Sharapova's 2007 season was plagued with a chronic shoulder injury, and saw her ranking fall out of the top 5 for the first time in two years. She ultimately won her third Grand Slam at the 2008 Australian Open, defeating Henin in the quarterfinals and Ana Ivanović in the final. After reclaiming the number one ranking in May 2008, Sharapova's shoulder problems re-surfaced, ultimately requiring surgery in October and forcing her out of the game for nearly ten months. Sharapova returned in May 2009 and was ranked No. 126 in the world due to her extensive lay-off. Since her comeback, Sharapova has won 4 singles titles (bringing her career total to 23) and improved her ranking to within the top 10.
Sharapova's public profile extends beyond tennis, as she has been featured in a number of modeling assignments, including a feature in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She has been featured in many advertisements including those for Nike, Prince and Canon and is the face of several fashion houses, most notably Cole Haan. Sharapova was the most searched-for athlete on Yahoo! in both 2005 and 2008. Since February 2007, she has been a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, concerned specifically with the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme.
Sharapova was born in 1987 to Yury and Yelena, ethnic Belarusians, in the town of Nyagan' in Siberia, Russia. Her parents moved from Gomel, Belarus after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 affected the region. When Sharapova was two, the family moved to Sochi where her father befriended Aleksandr Kafelnikov, whose son Yevgeny would go on to win two Grand Slam singles titles and became Russia's first ever World No. 1 tennis player. Aleksandr gave Sharapova her first tennis racket at the age of four, where upon she began practicing regularly with her father in a local park. She took her first tennis lessons with veteran Russian coach Yuri Yutkin, who was instantly impressed when he first saw her play, noting her "exceptional hand-eye co-ordination."
At the age of seven, Sharapova attended a tennis clinic in Moscow run by Martina Navrátilová, who recommended professional training at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, which had previously trained players such as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova. With money tight, Yuri was forced to borrow the sum that would allow him and his daughter, neither of whom could speak English, to travel to America, which they finally did in 1994. Visa restrictions prevented Sharapova's mother from joining them for two years. Arriving in Florida with savings of USD 700, Sharapova's father took various low-paying jobs, including dish-washing, to fund her lessons until she was old enough to be admitted to the academy. In 1995, 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 enroll at the age of 9.
Sharapova started the year at the Australian Open, where she defeated fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the second Grand Slam semifinal of her career. Sharapova held match points in the third set of her semifinal match before losing to eventual champion Serena Williams. In February, Sharapova won back-to-back tournaments, the Toray Pan Pacific Open and the Qatar Total Open, allowing her to reach the top three on the world rankings for the first time.
In the semifinals of the Tier I Pacific Life Open, Sharapova was defeated by Davenport 6–0, 6–0, the first time she had failed to win a game in a match. The following fortnight, she defeated former World No. 1 players Justine Henin and Venus Williams to reach the final at the Tier I NASDAQ-100 Open, where she lost to Kim Clijsters.
Sharapova made the semifinals of a clay-court tournament for the first time at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, where she lost to Patty Schnyder. Sharapova would have become the World No. 1 for the first time had she won the tournament. Sharapova then reached the quarterfinals of the French Open for the second consecutive year, before losing to eventual champion Henin. On grass, Sharapova won her third title of the year when she successfully defended her title at the DFS Classic, defeating Jelena Janković in the final. As the defending champion at Wimbledon, Sharapova reached the semifinals without dropping a set and losing a service game just once, extending her winning streak on grass to 24 matches. However, she was then beaten by eventual champion Venus Williams.
A back injury sustained by World No. 1 Davenport at Wimbledon prevented her from playing tournaments during the summer hardcourt season, which meant she could not earn new ranking points to replace those that were expiring from the previous year. Sharapova, although also injured for much of this time, had far fewer points to defend, and so she became the first Russian woman to hold the World No. 1 ranking on August 22, 2005. Her reign lasted only one week, however, as Davenport reclaimed the top ranking after winning the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament.
As the top seed at the US Open, Sharapova lost in the semifinals to Kim Clijsters, meaning she had lost to the eventual champion in every Grand Slam of the season. However, she once again leapfrogged Davenport to take the World No. 1 ranking on September 12, 2005. She retained it for six weeks, but after playing few tournaments while injured, she again relinquished the ranking to Davenport. To conclude the year, Sharapova failed to defend her title at the year-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, defeating Davenport in one of her round-robin matches but ultimately losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Amélie Mauresmo.