- Full name Maria Sharapova
- Nickname Masha
- Birth date April 19, 1987
- Birth place Nyagan
- Current age 26 years 62 days
When the tall, blonde Russian teenager Maria Sharapova burst onto the scene, becoming one of the youngest Grand Slam champions in history, she became a global superstar and overnight. Hers is a real rags to riches tale.
Born in Siberia, Sharapova was given a tennis racket by the father of former Grand Slam champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov and began playing. She was spotted by former world No.1 Martina Navratilova who recognised her talent and recommended that she relocate to America for professional training.
In 1994, aged nine, she moved with her father to Florida to enrol in the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, where the likes of Andre Agassi and Monica Seles learnt their trade. While her father worked menial jobs to fund her tennis lessons, Sharapova did not see her mother for two years as she failed her first visa application.
Sharapova continued to develop and her marketing potential was obvious from a young age, and she signed her first sponsor, Nike, when she was 11. She turned professional at 13 and in 2002 became the youngest female to reach the junior final at the Australian Open, going on to reach the final at Wimbledon a few months later.
She won three titles on the ITF circuit and made her WTA Tour debut at India Wells, winning her first match before losing to former world No.1 Monica Seles in the second round. Her first WTA title came at Tokyo in October 2003, and the second came soon after in Quebec, earning the newcomer of the year award.
Then, in June 2004 she arrived at the prestigious SW19 event as the 13th seed, and stunned the Wimbledon crowds, beating defending champion Serena Williams in straight sets to become the third youngest Wimbledon ladies' champion in history. Three Grand Slam semi-finals and titles in Toyko, Doha and Birmingham saw her rise to No.1 in the world in August 2005, the first Russian woman to achieve the feat. However, a back injury, caused by the fact she was still growing, at the end of the season and she relinquished the top spot to Lindsay Davenport.
Consistent performances at the major tournaments helped to cement her reputation as a top ten player, but after her fifth consecutive defeat in a Grand Slam semi-final, she was desperate to prove that her Wimbledon title was not a one-off. Then, at the 2006 US Open she defeated Justine Henin 6-4 6-4 to win her second Grand Slam title.
Despite surrendering her perfect record in Grand Slam finals with defeat to Serena Williams at the 2007 Australian Open, her final appearance was enough to see her return to the No.1 spot, but injuries hampered the remainder of her season and she ended the year ranked fifth.
However, she bounced back in style in 2008, winning her third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, beating Ana Ivanovic in the final. Still just 20 years old, only the French Open stands between her and a career Grand Slam, something Roger Federer only achieved aged 27.
She returned briefly to the top of the rankings after Henin's retirement in May 2008, but a shoulder injury saw her withdraw from Montreal in July and she missed the rest of the season, including the Olympics and the US Open.
After a nine-month lay-off, Sharapova returned in May, but failed to reach the semi-finals at any of the remaining three Grand Slams of the year. She won one title in Tokyo and ended the year outside of the top ten.
Improvements followed in 2011 - she reached the final at Wimbledon, but lost to Petra Kvitova - and 2012 started with another final appearance in Melbourne, before she returned to the grand slam winner's circle with victory at Roland Garros, defeating Sara Errani in the final.
In the process, at 25 she became just the tenth woman to complete the career grand slam.
After winning the third title of her career at the Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Birmingham, Sharapova reached her first Grand Slam semi-final, where she battled from 6-2, 3-1 down to beat former champion Lindsay Davenport 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-1. Her fairytale run at the All England Club continued, as she beat defending champion Serena Williams 6-4 6-1 to win her first Grand Slam.
After winning three Grand Slams before her 21st birthday, Sharapova was ranked world No.1 for the fourth time in her career in May 2008 before a shoulder injury forced her out of the game for nearly ten months.
"I'm not the next anyone, I'm the first Maria Sharapova."
"Take your pencils down, take your grunt-o-meters down, the fashion police, put it all away and just watch the match."
"Ebullient, bilingual and hyper-confident--not to mention tall, blonde and beautiful." Sportswriter L. Jon Wertheim
Sharapova was offered a cameo role on the hit TV show Desperate Housewives but declined, quite logically explaining that she was not desperate, nor anybody's wife.
- Serena seals second French Open triumph (Jun 8, 2013)
- Sharapova digs deepest to move on to final (Jun 6, 2013)
- Sharapova and Azarenka advance in Paris (Jun 1, 2013)
- What They Said: Nadal wants improvement, Janko sorry (Jun 1, 2013)
Rain halts Sharapova, Azarenka through in two (May 30, 2013)