Maria Sharapova was born on April 19, 1987, in Nyagan, Russia. She started playing tennis at an early age and turned professional at the age of 14.
The young Maria picked up her first racket on the courts of the small resort town and returned here today to visit the place where it all began. As part of a court dedication ceremony in her honor, Maria, along with the help of local girls from the Evgeniy Kafelnikov Tennis Academy, reopened the court for play and spoke passionately about her early career, what the court means to her and what it means to be back home in Sochi for the Winter Olympics.
“I hit my first tennis ball on this court when I was 4 years old, so it definitely holds a special place in my heart.”
In 2007, a shoulder injury sidelined Sharapova and contributed to a series of losses, but she was still ranked among the top 5 women’s tennis players at the end of that year. Her shoulder injury continued to plague her game, sidelining her in 2008. In 2009, Sharapova had surgery to repair the injury and after a year of rehabilitation and a string of losses, she started to make a comeback in 2011 when she finished the year ranked 4, her first top 5 finish since 2007.
In June 2012, Sharapova defeated Sara Errani in the women’s French Open, becoming the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam, winning all four major tennis tournaments.
At the 2012 Summer Olympic Games—Sharapova’s Olympic debut—she won a silver medal in women’s singles, losing the gold to American tennis star Serena Williams. Sharapova came in second to Williams the following year at the French Open. She lost the singles titles to Williams in the finals. That June, Sharapova made a less-than-impressive showing at Wimbledon. She only made it as far as the second round of competition.
“The Olympics is one of the most important times in an athlete’s career,” said Maria Sharapova. “I can’t wait to see all the athletes take their game to the next level, especially in sub-zero temperatures. I’m looking forward to the start of the tournament and wish the best of luck to the Russian athletes. Now it is their time to show the world how to Play Russian.”
“I’m not the next anyone, I’m the first Maria Sharapova.”
Off the court, Sharapova’s beauty and popular appeal have led to major commercial endorsements with companies including Nike and Tiffany & Co. Sharapova began a relationship with Slovenian professional basketball player Sasha Vujacic in 2009. After a year of dating, the couple announced that they were engaged in October 2010. During a post-match conference at the 2012 U.S. Open, she announced that the engagement was off and that her relationship with Vujacic had ended.
As the world’s eyes turn to Sochi this month, Sharapova is excited for the action to start on her own turf. Having represented Russia at London 2010, she has experienced first-hand how incredible it is to compete on such a global stage.