Maria Sharapova: How a poor girl from Russia aced fame and fortune through tennis

Maria Yuryevna Sharapova was born in Russia on April 19, 1987 and is currently ranked world No 7 by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
Maria Sharapova: How a poor girl from Russia aced fame and fortune through tennis

A United States resident since 1994, she has competed on the WTA tour since 2001. She has been ranked world No 1 in singles by the WTA on five separate occasions, for a total of 21 weeks. She is one of 10 women, and the only Russian, to hold the career Grand Slam. She is also an Olympic medallist, having earned silver for Russia in women’s singles at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

She moved to Florida in 1996 to train at Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Bradenton. Sharapova’s father Yuri, armed with just $700, moved to the US with her. Her mother Yelena had to stay in Russia due to visa restrictions and Maria turned professional in 2001.

Sharapova became the world No 1 for the first time on August 22, 2005, at the age of 18, and last held the ranking for the fifth time for four weeks from June 11, 2012, to July 8, 2012.

Her 35 singles titles and five Grand Slam titles — two at the French Open and one each at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open — rank third among active players, behind Serena and Venus Williams. She won the year-ending WTA Finals in her debut in 2004. She has also won three doubles titles.

Despite an injury-prone career, Sharapova has achieved a rare level of longevity in the women’s game. She has won at least one singles title a year from 2003 until 2015, a streak only bested by Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, and Chris Evert.

Several tennis pundits and former players have called Sharapova one of tennis’s best competitors, with John McEnroe calling her one of the best the sport has ever seen.

She is the richest woman in sport and with more than 15 million fans, is the most followed female athlete on Facebook.

Sharapova has been featured in a number of modelling assignments. She appeared in many advertisements, including those for Nike, Prince, and Canon, being the face of several fashion houses, most notably Cole Haan.

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 magazine and in March 2012 was named one of the “100 Greatest of All Time” by the Tennis Channel.

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