Maria Yuryevna Sharapova was born in a town in western Siberia, Nyagan, on April 19, 1987. She spent her childhood at Sochi. After her fourth birthday, when she received Yevgeny’s old Dunlop tennis racquets, who was the son of a family friend, Aleksandr Kafelnikov, she got hooked on to tennis. She started taking tennis lessons from Yuri Yutkin, a veteran coach.
When Martina Navratilova spotted her at a tennis workshop, she was astounded by the talent of the 6-year-old Maria Sharapova. She recommended her to join the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. When she was only 7, Maria Sharapova’s father, Yuri, decided to take her to the U.S. in spite of not knowing a word of English and having less than $1,000 in his pocket. After a long period of struggle, in 1995, IMG, agreed to sponsor Maria and provide $35,000 US per year for her to continue at the Bollettieri Academy.
Sharapova’s official tennis career began in 2001, upon joining the junior circuit. However she was allowed to play a limited number of matches on the professional tour. She won one match and lost two, one being against Monica Seles in the second round at Indian Wells, which was her first professional tournament. When the results of the season were drawn up, she was ranked 186th on the WTA charts. By 2003, she was in the big leagues.
Having joined the WTA Tour, she impressed everyone with her talent. Wimbledon audiences were stunned when Sharapova beat Serena Williams in 2004. This huge win made her the first ever Russian to win a Wimbledon singles title and the third-youngest women’s champion in history. At the 2006 US Open, Maria Sharapova won her second major defeating Amélie Mauresmo, then World No. 1 in the semifinals and World No. 2 Justine Henin in the final. A chronic shoulder injury affected Sharapova’s 2007 season and her ranking fell out of the top 5. After beating Henin in the quarterfinals and Ana Ivanović in the final, she won her third Grand Slam at the 2008 Australian Open. In May 2008, Sharapova reclaimed her World No. 1 rank but her shoulder problems returned, forcing her to pull out of the game for over ten months with a surgery. Ranked No. 126 in the world due to her extensive lay-off, she returned in May 2009.
Sharapova has won 4 singles titles and improved her ranking to within the top 5 since she returned to the court. Maria Sharapova has won a total of 23 WTA singles titles- three Grand Slam singles titles at the 2004 Wimbledon, 2006 US Open and 2008 Australian Open.
Maria Sharapova on four occasions was ranked as World No. 1 in singles. She became the World No. 1 for the first time on Aug 22, 2005 and last regained the ranking for the fourth time on May 19, 2008. She has been in 5 Grand Slam finals till date and is currently ranked as World No. 5.
Beyond tennis Maria Sharapova has featured in a number of modeling assignments, including a feature in swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. She has featured in several advertisements for Canon, Nike and Prince. She is also the face of several fashion houses. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), concerned predominantly with the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme since February 2007. Sharapova was named one of the top 100 most powerful celebrities of the year in Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2011.