Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova at the 2006 Acura Classic.
Country  Russia
Residence Bradenton, Florida, USA
Born April 19, 1987 (1987-04-19) (age 24)
Nyagan, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)[1]
Turned pro April 19, 2001
Plays Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money $16,643,327[2]
Singles
Career record 412–102
Career titles 24 WTA, 4 ITF
Highest ranking No. 1 (August 22, 2005)
Current ranking No. 4 (November 4, 2011)[3]
Grand Slam results
Australian Open W (2008)
French Open SF (2007, 2011)
Wimbledon W (2004)
US Open W (2006)
Other tournaments
Championships W (2004)
Doubles
Career record 23–17
Career titles 3 WTA
Highest ranking 41 (June 14, 2004)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open 2R (2003, 2004)
Last updated on: August 29, 2011.

Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (Russian: Мария Юрьевна Шарáпова),IPA: [mɐˈrʲijə ˈjurʲjɪvnə ʂɐˈrapəvə] ( listen). (born April 19, 1987) is a Russian professional tennis player and a former world no. 1. A US resident since 1994,[4] Sharapova has won 24 WTA singles titles, including three Grand Slam singles titles at the 2004 Wimbledon, 2006 US Open and 2008 Australian Open. She has also won the year-end WTA Tour Championships in 2004. 

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has ranked Sharapova world no. 1 in singles on four separate occasions. She became the world no. 1 for the first time on August 22, 2005, and last regained this ranking for the fourth time on May 19, 2008. As of November, 2011 Sharapova is ranked world no. 4. She has been in five Grand Slam finals with the final record 3–2.  

Sharapova made her professional breakthrough in 2004 when, at age 17, she defeated 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 10 of the WTA Rankings with this win. Despite not winning a major in 2005, Sharapova briefly held the no. 1 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 no. 1 ranking in May 2008, Sharapova's shoulder problems re-surfaced, ultimately requiring surgery in October and forcing her out of the game for nearly 10 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 five singles titles (bringing her career total to 24) and improved her ranking to the world no. 2.

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.[5][6][7] 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.[8]

Contents

Early life

Gomel, Belarus is the root of Sharapova's parents Yury and Yelena. They left their homeland after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 affected the region, right before Sharapova was born.[9] 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, whereupon she began practicing regularly with her father at a local park.[10] 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."[11]

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.[10] 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 United States, which they finally did in 1994.[11] Visa restrictions prevented Sharapova's mother from joining them for two years.[9] Arriving in Florida with savings of US$700,[11] 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.[10]

Tennis career

2001–03

Sharapova first gained attention on the tennis scene in November 2000, when she won the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships in the girls' 16 division at the age of just 13.[12] She was then given a special award, the Rising Star Award, which is awarded only to players of exceptional promise.[13] She made her professional debut in 2001, and played her first WTA tournament at the Pacific Life Open in 2002, winning a match before losing to Monica Seles. Due to restrictions on how many professional events she could play, Sharapova went to hone her game in junior tournaments, where she reached the finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2002. She was the youngest girl ever to reach the final of the Australian Open junior championship at 14 years and 9 months.[14]

From 2003, Sharapova played a full season, and made a rapid climb into the top 50 by the end of the year.[15] She made her debuts at both the Australian Open and the French Open, but failed to win a match in either.[16] It was not until the grass season that she began to fulfill her promise, beating a top-20 player for the first time and reaching her first semifinal at the WTA level. Then, as a wildcard at Wimbledon, she defeated 11th seed Jelena Dokić to reach the fourth round, where she lost in three sets to Svetlana Kuznetsova.[16]

By the end of September, Sharapova had already captured her first WTA title at a smaller event, the Japan Open Tennis Championships, before winning her second in her final tournament of the season, the Bell Challenge. To cap off her first full season as a professional, she was awarded the WTA Newcomer of the Year honor.

2004

Sharapova was defeated in the third round of the Australian Open by seventh seed Anastasia Myskina.[17] The highlight of the remainder of her spring hard-court season was a run to the semifinals at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Cellular South Cup, where she ultimately lost to Vera Zvonareva.[17]

During the spring clay-court season, Sharapova entered the top 20 on the WTA world rankings as a result of reaching the third round of the Qatar Telecom German Open[17] and the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, both of which were Tier I events.[17] At the latter event, she defeated a player ranked in the top 10 for the first time with a straight-sets win over world no. 10 Elena Dementieva. Later that clay-court season, she went on to make the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time at the French Open, losing there to Paola Suárez.

Sharapova won the third title of her career at the Wimbledon warm-up DFS Classic, defeating Tatiana Golovin in the final.[17] Seeded 13th and aged 17 at Wimbledon, she reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by defeating Ai Sugiyama. There, she came back from a 6–2, 3–1 deficit to defeat fifth seed and former champion Lindsay Davenport. In the final, Sharapova upset top seed and defending champion Serena Williams to win her first Grand Slam singles title, and become the third youngest woman to win the Wimbledon title, behind only Lottie Dod and Martina Hingis. Sharapova also became the second Russian woman (after Anastasia Myskina had won the year's previous major at Roland Garros) to win a Grand Slam singles title. The victory was hailed by the media as "the most stunning upset in memory",[18] with other writers commenting on her arrival as a serious challenger to the Williams' dominance at Wimbledon.[19] She entered the top 10 in the rankings for the first time as a result of the win.[17]

Following her Wimbledon win, attention and interest in Sharapova in the media greatly increased, a rise in popularity dubbed as "Maria Mania."[20] However, on court, she was struggling to achieve results, winning just three of six matches in her preparations for the US Open. At the US Open itself, she reached the third round, before being eliminated by Mary Pierce. In order to regain confidence, Sharapova played and won consecutive titles in Asia in the fall, the Hansol Korea Open Tennis Championships and the Japan Open Tennis Championships.

In October, Sharapova defeated Venus Williams en route to making the final of a Tier I event for the first time at the Zurich Open, losing in the final to Alicia Molik. She then made her debut at the year-ending WTA Tour Championships. There, she won two of her three round-robin matches (including a win over US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova) in order to advance to the semifinals, where she defeated Myskina. In the final, she defeated Serena Williams, 4–6, 6–2, 6–4, after trailing 4–0 in the final set.[17]

2005

Sharapova at Indian Wells in 2005

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.[21] In February, Sharapova won back-to-back tournaments, the Toray Pan Pacific Open and the Qatar Total Open,[21] allowing her to reach the top 3 in the world rankings for the first time.

In the semifinals of the Tier I Pacific Life Open, Sharapova was defeated by Lindsay Davenport, 0-6, 0-6, the first time she had failed to win a game in a match.[21][22] 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.[21]

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.[21] Sharapova would have become world no. 1 for the first time had she won the tournament.[23] Sharapova then reached the quarterfinals of the French Open for the second consecutive year, before losing to eventual champion Henin.[21] 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.[21]

A back injury sustained by world no. 1 Davenport at Wimbledon prevented her from playing tournaments during the summer hard-court 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.[24] Her reign lasted only one week, however, as Davenport reclaimed the top ranking after winning the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament.[24]

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.[24] To conclude the year, Sharapova failed to defend her title at the year-end Sony Ericsson Championships, defeating Davenport in one of her round-robin matches, but ultimately losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Amélie Mauresmo.[21]

2006

Sharapova started 2006 by losing in the semifinals of the Australian Open in three sets to Henin,[25] also losing a rematch several weeks later at the Dubai Tennis Championships, having defeated former world no. 1 Martina Hingis and world no. 3 Lindsay Davenport in earlier rounds of the tournament.[25] Sharapova claimed her first title in nine months at the Tier I tournament in Indian Wells, defeating Hingis in the semifinals and Elena Dementieva in the final.[25] The following fortnight, she reached the final in Miami before losing to Kuznetsova.[25]

Sharapova celebrating after winning the 2006 US Open

Missing the entire clay-court season with injury, Sharapova returned for the French Open. There, after saving match points in defeating Mashona Washington in the first round, she was eliminated by Dinara Safina in the fourth round.[25]

On grass, Sharapova was unsuccessful in her attempt to win in Birmingham for the third consecutive year, losing in the semifinals to Jamea Jackson.[25] Despite that, she was among the title favorites at Wimbledon, where the eventual champion Mauresmo ended up beating her in the semifinals.[25]

Sharapova claimed her second title of the year at the Tier I Acura Classic, defeating Clijsters for the first time in the final.[25] As the third seed at the US Open, Sharapova defeated top seed Mauresmo for the first time in the semifinals, and then followed up by beating second seed Justine Henin[25] in order to win her second Grand Slam singles title.[25]

That autumn, Sharapova won titles in back-to-back weeks at the Zurich Open and the Generali Ladies Linz.[25] By winning all three of her round-robin matches at the WTA Tour Championships, she extended her win streak to 19 matches, before it was snapped in the semifinals by eventual champion Henin.[25] Sharapova would have finished the season as world no. 1 had she won the event. As it was, she finished ranked world no. 2, her best finish at the end of a year yet.

2007

Sharapova at the 2007 Australian Open

Sharapova was the top seed at the Australian Open due to top-ranked Justine Henin's withdrawal. After being two points away from defeat in the first round against Camille Pin, rallying for a 6–3, 4–6, 9–7 victory, she went on to reach the final of the tournament for the first time, but was routed there by Serena Williams, 1–6, 2–6, ranked world no. 81 at the time.[26] By reaching the final, Sharapova recaptured the world no. 1 ranking.[24] She held it for seven weeks, surrendering it back to Henin after failing to defend her title at the Pacific Life Open, instead losing in the fourth round to Vera Zvonareva after struggling with a hamstring injury. The following fortnight, she defeated Venus Williams in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open, before suffering another defeat, 1–6, 1–6, to Serena Williams.

A shoulder injury forced Sharapova to miss most of the clay-court season for the second consecutive year, resulting in her only tune-up for the French Open being the Istanbul Cup, where she lost in the semifinals to Aravane Rezaï.[26] Despite her lack of preparation, she reached the semifinals of the French Open for the first time in her career (having saved match points against Patty Schnyder in the fourth round), before losing to Ana Ivanović.[26]

On grass, Sharapova was runner-up to Jelena Janković at the DFS Classic.[26] Following that, she experienced her earliest Wimbledon loss since 2003 by losing in the fourth round to eventual champion Venus Williams.[26]

Sharapova clinched the US Open Series by defending her title at the Acura Classic, her only championship of the year, and reaching the semifinals in Los Angeles.[24] In her US Open title defense, Sharapova lost her third round match to 30th seed Agnieszka Radwańska,[27] her earliest exit at a Grand Slam singles tournament since the 2004 US Open, where she lost in the same round.[24]

Following the US Open loss, Sharapova did not play again until the Kremlin Cup in October, where she lost her opening match to Victoria Azarenka.[26] Shortly after this, she fell out of the top 5 in the world rankings for the first time since 2004. She qualified for the eight-woman year-end Sony Ericsson Championships only because Venus Williams withdrew from the tournament.[24] Despite having not previously won a match in two months, Sharapova topped her round-robin group at the tournament, after winning all three of her matches, defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanović. She then defeated Anna Chakvetadze in the semifinals.[26] In the final, she lost to world no. 1 Henin in a match that lasted 3 hours and 24 minutes.

2008

Sharapova was seeded fifth at the Australian Open,[28] but was not considered a favorite. Nevertheless, she defeated former world no. 1 Lindsay Davenport in the second round, and then world no. 1 Henin in the quarterfinals,[29] ending the latter's 32-match winning streak.[30] She proceeded to the finals by defeating Jelena Janković in the semifinals, where she defeated Ana Ivanović to win her third Grand Slam title,[31] having not dropped a set all tournament.

Sharapova playing at the Pacific Life Open in 2008

After the Australian Open, Sharapova extended her winning streak to 18 matches.[31] This run encompassed two wins in singles rubbers when making her debut for Russia in the Fed Cup[32] against Israel[31] and victory at the Tier I Qatar Total Open.[31] Her winning streak was ended in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open by Kuznetsova.[31] In April, Sharapova won the Bausch & Lomb Championships, having survived her longest-ever match, at 3 hours and 26 minutes long, in the third round against Anabel Medina Garrigues.[33][34] The following week, at the Family Circle Cup, she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena Williams, her fourth consecutive loss to the American.[35]

In May, Sharapova regained the world no. 1 ranking because of Henin's sudden retirement from professional tennis and request to the WTA that her own ranking be removed immediately.[36] As the top-seeded player at the French Open[31] Sharapova was within two points[37] of being knocked out by Evgeniya Rodina in the first round, before eventually winning.[38] As a result of losing to Dinara Safina in the fourth round,[39] she relinquished her no. 1 ranking.[40] Her dip in form continued at Wimbledon, where she lost in the second round to world no. 154 Alla Kudryavtseva.[31] This was her earliest loss ever at Wimbledon, and at any Grand Slam in almost five years.[41]

Sharapova withdrew from the Rogers Cup tournament in August due to a shoulder injury.[42][43] An MRI scan revealed that she had been suffering from a rotator cuff tear since April, forcing her out of all tournaments for the rest of the season, including the Beijing Olympics, the US Open, and the WTA Tour Championships. In spite of that, she still finished the year ranked world no. 9.[44] In October, after a failed attempt to rehabilitate the shoulder, Sharapova had surgery to repair the tear.

2009

Sharapova made the quarter-finals of the French Open, her best Grand Slam performance of 2009

Sharapova did not attempt to defend her Australian Open title, as she continued to recover from surgery.[45][46] She returned to the sport in March, in the doubles tournament at the BNP Paribas Open, but she and partner Elena Vesnina lost in the first round. After this, Sharapova withdrew from further singles tournaments, resulting in her standing in the world rankings being severely affected. She dropped out of the top 100 for the first time in six years in May, the nadir being world no. 126.

Playing her first singles tournament in nearly ten months, Sharapova made the quarterfinals of the clay-court Warsaw Open in May, being beaten by Alona Bondarenko. The following week, in the first Grand Slam appearance since her surgery, she reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, before her run was ended by Dominika Cibulková.

During the summer grass-court season playing in Birmingham, losing in the semifinals. Sharapova then played at the 2009 Wimbledon Championships as the 24th seed. She was upset in the second round by Gisela Dulko in three sets.

Sharapova enjoyed considerable success in the summer months, reaching the quarterfinals at the Bank of the West Classic, the semifinals at the LA Women's Tennis Championships, and finishing runner-up at the Rogers Cup to Elena Dementieva. Nevertheless, she was dealt her second straight early exit at the final Grand Slam of the year, losing to Melanie Oudin at the US Open, while committing 60 unforced errors and a personal-record 21 double faults.

The final stretch of the season brought Sharapova her first title of the year in Tokyo, after opponent Jelena Janković retired after being down 2–5 to Sharapova in the final. By virtue of that result, she was the recipient of a bye at the China Open, but failed to use it to her advantage, losing to Peng Shuai in the third round. She ultimately finished the season at no. 14, having improved from no. 126 when she started her return.

2010

Sharapova practicing at the Bank of the West Classic in 2010

After playing two exhibition tournaments in Asia, Sharapova officially began her season at the Australian Open, where she was upset in her first-round match against Maria Kirilenko. The loss meant that for the first time since 2003, Sharapova had lost her opening match at a Grand Slam event.[47] She then rebounded by winning a smaller American event, the Cellular South Cup, her 21st career WTA title and first of the year.[48] 

At the BNP Paribas Open, Sharapova lost in the third round to Zheng Jie, aggravating a bruised bone on her right elbow in the process, which resulted in her eventual withdrawal from the Sony Ericsson Open[49] and the Family Circle Cup.[50] 

Returning at the 2010 Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open, Sharapova lost in the first round to Lucie Šafářová. She continued her French Open preparation at the Internationaux de Strasbourg as a wildcard, advancing to the final, where she beat Kristina Barrois. This was her first title on red clay and 22nd overall title.[51] At the French Open, Sharapova's brief clay season culminated with a third-round loss to four-time champion Justine Henin.

Sharapova began her preparations for Wimbledon at the AEGON Classic. She advanced to the final for the fourth time, where she lost to Li Na. As the 16th seed at Wimbledon, Sharapova lost in the fourth round to world no. 1 and eventual champion Serena Williams, 6-7(9), 4-6, despite having three set points in the opening set.[52] The match was seen as another encouraging performance for Sharapova, with some stating their belief that she was approaching the form that would see her contending for Grand Slams once more,[53] and Sharapova herself that stating she felt that she was "in a much better spot than I was last year."[54]

During the US Open Series, Sharapova made two straight finals, losing to Victoria Azarenka at the Bank of the West Classic, and to Kim Clijsters at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open. In the latter match, Sharapova held three match points while leading 5–3 on Clijsters's serve late in the second set, but could not convert them. 

At the U.S. Open, Sharapova was the 14th seed. She made it to the fourth round, where she played top seed Caroline Wozniacki and lost, 3-6, 4-6.  

Sharapova's last two tournaments of the season ended in disappointment. She played in the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she was upset in the first round by 39-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm.[55]  Her last tournament of the year was the China Open, where she lost in the second round to fellow Russian Elena Vesnina.[56]  Days later, she announced the end of her 2010 season.[57]  She ended the year at number 18 in the world.   [58]

2011

It was announced that Sharapova would bring in Thomas Hogstedt as a coach for the 2011 season, joining Michael Joyce.[59] On December 5, Sharapova played an exhibition match against world no. 2 Vera Zvonareva in Monterrey, Mexico. She won the match, 6–1, 7–5.[60]

Sharapova confirmed that her first tournament of the year would be at the 2011 ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, held from January 4 to 9.[61] She also announced that she would be leading the Russia Fed Cup team against France in February in their first-round tie.[62]

In Sharapova's first ever official Australian Open warm-up tournament at the 2011 ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, she was seeded first. She was defeated in the quarterfinals by the Hungarian veteran and eventual champion Gréta Arn, 2–6, 5–7. After the ASB Classic Sharapova decided to take a hiatus from Joyce's coaching, despite having worked together for a number of years, including during her successful years where she became a multiple Grand Slam champion.[63]

Sharapova participated in the first Grand Slam of the season at the Australian Open, where she was the 14th seeded player. She made it to the fourth round, where she lost to Andrea Petkovic, 2–6, 3–6.[64]

Sharapova's next appearance was at the 2011 Fed Cup tie against France, which she lost to Virginie Razzano, 3–6, 4–6. She then withdrew from the 2011 Open GDF Suez in Paris because of viral illness.[65] She also had to pull out of the 2011 Dubai Tennis Championships and 2011 Qatar Ladies Open due to an ear infection.

Sharapova returned to the tour in March by taking part in the first premier mandatory tournament of the year, the 2011 BNP Paribas Open, where she was seeded 16th. She lost in the semifinal to world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, 1–6, 2–6. With this result, Sharapova returned to the top 10 for the first time since February, 2009.

Sharapova's next tournament was the second premier mandatory tournament, the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Miami. Seeded 16th, she defeated 26th seed Alexandra Dulgheru in the quarterfinals in a match that lasted 3 hours and 28 minutes, the longest match of her career, and though twisting her left ankle while serving at 5–5 in the third set, she won, 3–6, 7–6(6), 7–6(5). In the semifinals, she defeated Andrea Petkovic, 3–6, 6–0, 6–2. In the final, her shaky and error-prone form resulted in a loss to Victoria Azarenka, 1–6, 4–6, despite a late comeback in the second set.

Because of Sharapova's refusal of her wildcard offer to the 2011 Family Circle Cup, her clay season was scheduled to begin at the third premier mandatory tournament at the 2011 Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open, where she was seeded 8th. She lost to Dominika Cibulková, 5–7, 4–6, in the third round.

Sharapova's next tournament was the 2011 Internazionali BNL d'Italia, where she was seeded seventh. She defeated world no. 7 Samantha Stosur, 6–2, 6–4, to take home the title, marking her biggest clay-court victory to date.[66] With this, Sharapova overtakes Stosur as the World No. 7, her highest position since November, 2008.[67]

Sharapova at 2011 Roland Garros

Sharapova's next tournament was the 2011 French Open, where she was seeded seventh. She defeated 15th seed Andrea Petkovic, 6–0, 6–3, in the quarterfinals, marking her first grand slam semifinals since her comeback from the career-threatening shoulder injury. She then struggled to play in the strong winds, making a myriad of unforced errors and double faults on her way to a loss to 6th seed and eventual champion Li Na, 4–6, 5–7 in the semifinals, subsequently ending her clay season with a win-loss of 12–2.[68] This marks her most successful clay season to date. In addition, due to the semifinal appearance at Roland Garros, Sharapova moved up to world no. 6, for her highest position since November, 2008.[69]

After her loss at Roland Garros, Sharapova withdrew from the AEGON Classic, citing illness.[70] She then participated at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships, where she was seeded fifth. She had not dropped a set in the tournament entering the final, beating compatriot Anna Chakvetadze, Laura Robson, Klara Zakopalova, 20th seed Shuai Peng, 24th seed Dominika Cibulková, and resurgent Sabine Lisicki along the way. She then lost to eighth seed Petra Kvitová in straight sets, 3–6, 4–6.[71] With this result, Sharapova moved up to world no. 5, which is the highest position she has reached since her comeback from her shoulder injury. It is also her highest position since the 2008 US Open.[72]

Sharapova competed at the 2011 Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, USA to begin her 2011 US Open Series campaign. As she was seeded second, she received a bye into the second round, where she defeated Daniela Hantuchová, 6–2, 2–6, 6–4, to advance to the quarterfinals.[73] In a highly anticipated match, Sharapova lost to fellow multiple Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, 1–6, 3–6, in the quarterfinals.[74] Serena Williams was the eventual champion.

Sharapova then entered the 2011 Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada. As the fifth seed, she received a bye into the second round, where she defeated Bojana Jovanovski, 6–1, 7–5. In the third round, she lost to Galina Voskoboeva, 3–6, 5–7, marking her 100th career loss.[75]

Sharapova then contested at the 2011 Western & Southern Open held in Cincinnati, Ohio. As the fourth seed, she received a bye into the second round. On the way to her fourth final of the year, she beat Anastasia Rodionova, 6–1, 6–3,[76] 14th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6–2, 6–3,[77] 10th seed Samantha Stosur, 6–3, 6–2,[78] and second seed Vera Zvonareva, 2–6, 6–3, 6–3.[79] In the final, she defeated fellow former world no. 1 Jelena Jankovic, 4–6, 7–6(3), 6–3, in 2 hours and 49 minutes, making it the longest WTA tour final of the year.[80] She subsequently moved up to world no. 4, her highest ranking since August, 2008 and the highest since her comeback from her shoulder injury.[81]

Sharapova then entered the final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open, where she was seeded third. She beat British up-and-comer Heather Watson, 3–6, 7–5, 6–3, and Anastasiya Yakimova, 6–1, 6–1, to reach the third round. She was then upset by Flavia Pennetta in the third round, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6. However, because of the fall of Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva in the rankings, Sharapova climbed to world no. 2.[82]

Sharapova next tournament was the 2011 Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan. As the second seed, she received a bye into the second round, where she beat Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6–2, 7–5. She then beat 13th seed Julia Goerges, 7–6(4), 7–6(4), before retiring against Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinal, 3–4, after slipping on the baseline. This also forced her to withdraw from the 2011 China Open the following week. Sharapova didn't enter any following tournaments. Instead, she flew to Istanbul, Turkey to prepare for the upcoming 2011 WTA Tour Championships. During the WTA Tour Championships, Sharapova withdrew during the Round Robin after her defeat against Li Na 6-7(4) 4-6, due to the ankle injury she suffered in Tokyo earlier on in the year. Sharapova will end the year number 4 in the world, her first top 10 finish since 2008 and first top 5 finish since 2007.

Fed Cup participation

Sharapova playing for the Russian Fed Cup team against Israel in 2008.

Sharapova has lived in the United States since moving there at the age of seven, but retains her Russian citizenship, and is therefore eligible to play in the Fed Cup for Russia.[83]  However, the behavior of Sharapova's father during her matches on the WTA Tour, combined with a perceived lack of commitment by her to the Fed Cup, has made her selection for the Russian Fed Cup team cause controversy in the past.

After Sharapova had beaten fellow Russian Anastasia Myskina at the 2004 WTA Tour Championships, Myskina criticized Sharapova's father, saying: "He was just yelling and screaming instructions to her and I thought he just might jump right on the court at one point in the match." At the Fed Cup semi-finals two weeks later Myskina stated she would stop playing for Russia if Sharapova joined the Russian team the following season: "If she joins our team next season you won't see me there for sure. His behaviour is totally incorrect, simply rude. I don't want to be around people like him." Larisa Neiland, assistant to Russia Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev, added: "Her father's behaviour (at the WTA Tour Championships) was simply outrageous. I just don't see how he could work with the rest of us." However Tarpishchev himself played down the problem, insisting: "I feel that things will calm down soon and we'll have Myskina, Sharapova, Kuznetsova and everyone else playing for Russia."[84]

Sharapova playing for the Russian Fed Cup team

At the end of 2005, Sharapova stated she was now keen to make her Fed Cup debut[85] and was set to play against Belgium in April 2006, but withdrew.[86] Sharapova later withdrew from ties against Spain in April 2007[87] and against the United States in July 2007 because of injuries.[88] The latter withdrawal led to Russia's captain saying she would be "ineligible for selection" for the Fed Cup final in September.[89] However, Sharapova attended the final, cheering from the sidelines and acting as a "hitting partner" in practices, resulting in some of her Russian teammates implying that she was attending only to enable her to play at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (rules state that players must have "shown commitment" to Fed Cup in order to play). Svetlana Kuznetsova said, "She said she wanted to be our practice partner but if you can't play how then can you practice?"[90]

Sharapova finally made her Fed Cup debut in February 2008, in Russia's quarterfinal tie against Israel.[32] She won both her singles rubbers, against Tzipora Obziler and Shahar Pe'er, helping Russia to a 4–1 victory.[91] For the semifinals, she was given permission to skip the tie, with Tarpishchev announcing that she will be on the team for the final.[92] However, the date of the final coincided with the lay-off from her shoulder injury, and thus she did not play.[93]

In the 2011 first round tie, Maria played Virginie Razzano of France and lost. Maria was supposed to play Alize Cornet, but Sharapova was suffering from a viral illness. So teammate, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova played instead of Sharapova where she would go to help Russia come back from their 0–2 deficit by beating Alize Cornet 3–6 6–3 6–2 and secure the win for Russia against France 3–2.

Playing style

Sharapova is an aggressive baseliner, with power, depth, and angles on her forehand and backhand.[94] Additionally, she is one of the few players on the WTA who uses the reverse forehand a lot. Instead of using a traditional volley or overhead smash, she often prefers to hit a powerful "swinging" volley when approaching the net or attacking lobs.[95] Sharapova is thought to have good speed around the court, especially considering her height.[94] At the beginning of 2008, some observers noted that Sharapova had developed her game, showing improved movement and footwork and the addition of a drop shot and sliced backhand to her repertoire of shots.[96][97] Despite her powerful game, Sharapova's greatest asset is considered to be her mental toughness and competitive spirit, with Nick Bollettieri stating that she is "tough as nails". At the 2010 French Open, Hall-of-famer Martina Navratilova said of Sharapova, "with her, it's not over until she's shaking hands."[98] Sharapova is known for on-court "grunting", which reached a recorded 101 decibels during a match at Wimbledon in 2005.[99] During her second round match in Birmingham in 2003, Sharapova was asked to tone down the level of her grunt after opponent Nathalie Dechy complained to the umpire, with Sharapova's response saying that her grunting was "a natural instinct."[100] Monica Seles suggested that grunting is involuntary and a part of tennis.[101] When questioned by the media about her grunting, Sharapova urged the media to "just watch the match."[102] Her defensive game has been worked on by her new coach, and this has reflected in her results, making consecutive semi-finals at premier mandatory events on the tour.

Serve

Sharapova at The Championships, Wimbledon in 2009.

Early in her career Sharapova's first and second serves were regarded as powerful,[94] and she was believed to possess one of the best deliveries on the Tour.[103] Since the beginning of 2007, however, problems with her shoulder have reduced the effectiveness of her serve.[103] The shoulder injury not only resulted in her inconsistent first serves, but also her hitting high numbers of double faults.[104] Two-time US Open singles champion Tracy Austin believes that Sharapova often loses confidence in the rest of her game when she experiences problems with her serve and consequently produces more unforced errors and generally plays more tentatively,[105] while tennis writer Joel Drucker remarked that her serve was the "catalyst for her entire game", and that her struggles with it left her "unmasked."[103]

In her return from layoff in 2008 to 2009, she used an abbreviated motion, which was somewhat less powerful, and though producing aces also gave a very high number of double faults. After her early loss at the 2009 US Open, Sharapova returned to a more elongated motion, similar to her pre-surgery serve. She has since been able to produce speeds greater than before, including a 121 mph serve hit at the Birmingham tournament in 2010 – the fastest serve of her career.[106]

However since her shoulder operation Sharapova has been unable to control her serve. This led to numerous of faults, as she can't feel how much power she is generating.[107] The new action led to an elbow injury but under Thomas Hogstedt it has improved but can still be erratic.[108]

Surfaces

Because she predicates her game on power, Sharapova's preferred surfaces are the fast-playing hard and grass courts, as evident through her 24 victories on hard court and grass court. This is most notable when she won the 2004 Wimbledon, 2006 U.S. Open and 2008 Australian Open crowns, where she had her career breakthrough and played her peak tennis level, respectively.

Sharapova, however, is not as well-suited to the slower clay courts as she is on hard and grass courts. Sharapova has admitted that she is not as comfortable with her movement on clay compared with other court surfaces and once described herself as like a "cow on ice" after a match on clay,[109] due to her inability to slide. Despite this, she has shown improvement on this surface with respect to experience, as evident with her first WTA red clay title at the 2010 Internationaux de Strasbourg, 7 years since playing on the WTA circuit. Less than a year later, she won her biggest red clay title at the Tier I 2011 Internazionali BNL d'Italia.

Ground strokes and net-play

Sharapova is also known for her phenomenally accurate and powerful groundstrokes. She has a powerful forehand which tends to set up points and create successful winners. Sharapova occasionally utilizes a reverse follow-through on her forehand, similar to that of Lindsay Davenport and Rafael Nadal, which allows her to hit the ball later than normal and add top-spin, while it can also lead to timing issues resulting in errors. The backhand, although not as dominant in setting points up, is her more reliable shot with many tennis analysts[who?]  considering this to be her best asset, and one of tennis' great shots. Her net play is good when on the attack, often she will choose to drive the volley instead of slice volleys, but this is not seen as a strength—this seems to be continually worked on.

Personal life

Sharapova with children in Gomel, an area affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Sharapova has lived in the United States since moving there at the age of seven. She has a home in Manhattan Beach, California.[110]

Sharapova lists fashion, movies, music and reading the Sherlock Holmes and Pippi Longstocking series as among her off-court interests,[24] while she has also talked in the past about how she takes hip-hop dance classes.[111] Sharapova has a Pomeranian named Dolce,[112] which means "sweet" in Italian.[113] Sharapova is also a stamp collector and has a "huge collection" compiled since she was a child.[114]

Sharapova is engaged to Slovenian professional basketball player Sasha Vujačić (Saša Vujačič, Саша Вујачић), who plays for the Anadolu Efes S.K..[115][116] The two have been dating since 2009.[117]

At the 2004 US Open, Sharapova, along with several other Russian female tennis players, wore a black ribbon in observance of the tragedy after the Beslan school hostage crisis, which took place only days before.[118]

In addition, with Angela Haynes, Maria Kirilenko, Nicole Vaidišová, Rennae Stubbs, Governor Jeb Bush and Jennifer Capriati, Sharapova participated in an exhibition in Tampa in December 2004, raising money for the Florida Hurricane Relief Fund.[119]

In 2005, she donated around US$50,000 to those affected by the crisis.[24] On February 14, 2007, Sharapova was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and donated US$210,000 to UNDP Chernobyl-recovery projects. She stated at the time that she was planning to travel back to the area after Wimbledon in 2008,[120] though it didn't happen as she had to travel back to the US because of shoulder injury.[121] She fulfilled the trip in late June – early July 2010.

In July 2008, Sharapova sent a message on DVD to the memorial service of Emily Bailes, who had performed the coin toss ahead of the 2004 Wimbledon final that Sharapova had gone on to win.[122]

Sharapova helped to promote the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.[123]

In 2011, Sharapova was named in Forbes Celebrity 100. This lists her as one of the top 100 most powerful celebrities of the year.[124]

Sharapova has often implied that she desires an early retirement. Following the retirement of 25-year-old Justine Henin, Sharapova said, "If I was 25 and I'd won so many Grand Slams, I'd quit too."[125] In an interview after the 2008 Australian Open, she balked at the idea of playing for another ten years, saying that she hoped to have a "nice husband and a few kids" by then.[126]

Endorsements

Maria Sharapova unveiling the Canon PowerShot Diamond lineup of digital cameras.

Sharapova's tennis success and appearance have enabled her to secure commercial endorsements that greatly exceed the value of her tournament winnings.[127][128] In April 2005, People named her one of the 50 most beautiful celebrities in the world. In 2006, Maxim ranked Sharapova the hottest athlete in the world for the fourth consecutive year. She posed in a six-page bikini photoshoot spread in the 2006 Valentine's Day issue of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, alongside 25 supermodels.[129]

In a poll run by Britain's FHM magazine, she was voted the seventh most eligible bachelorette,[130] based on both "wealth and looks."

Sharapova used the Prince Triple Threat Hornet for part of 2003 and then used several different Prince racquets until the US Open. She gave the racquet she used in the 2004 Wimbledon final to Regis Philbin when taping Live with Regis and Kelly. Sharapova began using the Prince Shark OS at that tournament and had a major part in the production of the Shark racquet.[citation needed] She then switched to the Prince O3 White racquet in January 2006. Because of Sharapova's various shoulder injuries, she switched to the Prince O3 Speedport Black in July 2008.[131][132] In January 2011, it was announced that Sharapova would endorse Head racquets and use the Head YOUTEK Radical Midplus.[133][134]

Sharapova signed a sponsorship deal in January 2007 with Gatorade and Tropicana.[135]

In June 2007, Forbes magazine listed her as the highest-paid female athlete in the world, with annual earnings of over US $26 million,[136] the majority of which was from endorsements and sponsorships. In a later interview, she said, "You know, one of the greatest things about being an athlete and, you know, making money is realizing that you can help, you know, help the world, and especially children, who I absolutely love working with."[137]

In 2007, Sharapova was featured in a number of Canon USA's commercials for the PowerShot.[138] 

Sharapova has also been depicted in many tennis-related video games, along with such players as Daniela Hantuchová, Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams and Anna Kournikova. Some of the titles include the Top Spin series, Virtua Tennis series, and Grand Slam Tennis series.

Upon hearing that Sports Illustrated had named her in 2006 as the world's best-paid female athlete, Sharapova said, apparently only a little tongue-in-cheek, "It's never enough. Bring on the money. There's no limit to how much you can make."[139]

In January 2010, it was announced that Sharapova had renewed her contract with Nike, signing an 8 year deal for $70 million. This is the most lucrative deal ever for a sportswoman, dwarfing the previous record, which was Venus Williams' $43 million deal with Reebok.[140]

Wealth

In July 2008, as a result of her success both on and off court, she was the world's highest-paid female athlete, earning US $26 million.[141]

In August 2010, Maria Sharapova was once again named the world's highest-paid female athlete by Forbes, earning $24.5 million.[142]

In January 2010, she signed an eight-year Nike contract, worth $70 million.[143]

Career statistics and awards

Grand Slam Finals

Singles: 5 finals (3 titles, 2 runner-ups)

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent in the final Score in the final
Winner (1/1) 2004 United Kingdom Wimbledon Grass United States Serena Williams 6–1, 6–4
Winner (2/2) 2006 United States US Open Hard Belgium Justine Henin 6–4, 6–4
Runner-up (2/3) 2007 Australia Australian Open Hard United States Serena Williams 6–1, 6–2
Winner (3/4) 2008 Australia Australian Open Hard Serbia Ana Ivanović 7–5, 6–3
Runner-up (3/5) 2011 United Kingdom Wimbledon Grass Czech Republic Petra Kvitová 6–3, 6–4

Awards

2003
  • Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Newcomer of the Year[144]
2004
  • WTA Player of the Year[145]
  • WTA Most Improved Player of the Year[145]
2005
  • ESPY Best Female Tennis Player[145]
  • Named the country's best female player for the year by Russia's tennis federation
  • Master of Sports of Russia
  • Prix de Citron Roland Garros[146]
2006
  • Named the country's best female player for the year by Russia's tennis federation
  • Whirlpool 6th Sense Player of the Year[145]
2007
  • ESPY Best Female Tennis Player[145]
  • ESPY Best International Female Athlete[145]
  • ESPN Hottest Female Athlete
2008
  • Named the January 2008 female Athlete of the Month by the United States Sports Academy for her performance at the Australian Open
  • ESPY Best Female Tennis Player[147]
2010
  • WTA Fan Favorite Singles Player[145]
  • WTA Humanitarian Of The Year[145]
  • WTA Most Fashionable Player (On Court)[145]
  • WTA Most Fashionable Player (Off Court)[145]
  • WTA Most Dramatic Expression (2010)[145]

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