At the age of three, Maria Sharapova moved with her family to
the resort town of Sochi, beginning to play tennis at the age of
four, using a racquet given to her by Yevgeny Kafelnikov's
father. At age five or six, at a tennis clinic in Moscow,
Sharapova was spotted by Martina Navratilova, who urged her
parents to get her serious coaching in the United States.
In 2004, after a spectacular run, which included three-set wins over Ai Sugiyama (5-7, 7-5, 6-2) and Lindsay Davenport (2-6, 7-6, 6-1), Sharapova became the third youngest Wimbledon women's champion (after Lottie Dod and Martina Hingis) and second youngest in the Open Era by defeating defending two-time champion Serena Williams in straight sets (6-1, 6-4). She also became the first Russian ever to win that tournament. Sharapova followed it up with a victory at the season-ending WTA Championships, knocking off Serena Williams yet again by a score of 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. In the final set, she came back from a defecit of 4-0, and still won.
Maria currently uses the Prince o3 White Racket and consequently the popularity of the racket has gone through the roof.
At 6 ft 2 in., Maria Sharapova is regarded by many as possessing a natural beauty and figure and has done some modeling in November 2003 with IMG Models. She enjoys fashion and is known to read celebrity magazines. However, she says she does not want to overdo these activities, preferring to focus on her tennis. She is often compared to Anna Kournikova, also a Russian, a Bollettieri student, and a model. However, Sharapova, Bollettieri, and Kournikova all reject the comparison.
From June 2004 until her Wimbledon semi-final appearance in 2005, Sharapova had a 22-match winning streak on grass, including back-to-back Birmingham titles and the Wimbledon crown. Sharapova's huge success continued after winning Wimbledon, also. In November 2004, Sharapova signed a deal to represent Canon Inc. and promotes both their cameras and office products.
Maria Sharapova at Indian Wells in 2005In April 2005, Sharapova was listed by People Magazine as among the 50 most beautiful celebrities in the world. In June 2005, Forbes magazine listed Sharapova as the highest-paid female athlete in the world, with annual earnings of $18 million. A significant portion of this amount came from endorsements.
Defending her Wimbledon title in 2005 proved to be a simple enough task at first, with Sharapova sailing through to the semi-finals with ease without losing a set. However, she dropped her first set of the tournament against a rejuvenated Venus Williams and lost the match 6-7 1-6 in one of the most thrilling and masterful displays of power and accuracy seen in the women's game. Sharapova's streak on grass was ended, as was her quest for the No. 1 ranking, with Lindsay Davenport, who lost a historic match to Venus Williams in the 2005 Wimbledon final, holding firm.
However, a back injury that Davenport sustained in the Wimbledon final meant that she could not defend her titles won during the US hard court season of 2004. Because of this, she lost valuable ranking points. Sharapova was also suffering from an injury and did not complete a tournament during the season, but she had fewer points to defend and therefore rose to the No. 1 ranking on August 22, 2005. Sharapova's reign was short-lived, lasting only a week after Davenport re-ascended after winning the New Haven title. Sharapova rose to the No. 1 ranking again on September 12, 2005 despite losing in the Semi-finals of the US Open.
Maria Sharapova's loss in the semifinal of the 2005 US Open against Kim Clijsters marked the fourth time that season that she lost at a Grand Slam tournament against the eventual champion: Australian Open-SF-Serena Williams, French Open-QF-Justine Henin-Hardenne, Wimbledon-SF-Venus Williams, US Open-SF-Kim Clijsters. That streak was broken in January 2006, when Sharapova lost in the Australian Open semi-final to Justine Henin-Hardenne. Henin-Hardenne went on to lose in the final of the Australian Open to Amélie Mauresmo.
In February 2006, Sharapova featured in a six-page bikini photoshoot spread in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue annual magazine which debuted on Valentine's Day, along with 25 other scantily-clad supermodels. Sharapova joined the ranks of other athletes who have previously appeared in the publication.
On March 18, Maria Sharapova, as No.3 seed, claimed her first title of the year at the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells (a Tier 1 event), defeating No.4 seed Elena Dementieva in the final, 6-1 6-2. This is her first title in 2006 and the 11th in career. Sharapova is the first Russian to reach the final of the Pacific Life Open. As Dementieva reached the final later, surprisingly defeating Justine Henin-Hardenne, this was the first-ever all-Russian final at this Tier I tournament. Soon after, she had a run at the Nasdaq-100, which included a thrilling win over Tatiana Golovin, whom she beat 6-3, 6-7, 4-3 when Golovin retired with an ankle injury. She lost in the final, though, to a rededicated Svetlana Kuznetsova by a score of 4-6, 3-6. She then took 2 months off, which included pulling out of events in Rome and Instanbul, coming into the French Open with no clay-court warm up.
FHM Magazine ranked Sharapova eighth among the "100 S--iest Women in the World" in its 2006 List, up from her 36th placement in the previous year's edition.
Through an ankle injury, Maria finally decided to participate at the 2006 French Open. After saving 3 match points in the 1st round against Mashona Washington, Sharapova was shockingly eliminated in the 4th round by Dinara Safina, the sister of Marat Safin. She blew a lead of 5-1 in the 3rd set, and lost 18 of the last 21 points to lose by a score of 5-7, 6-2, 5-7.
Maria Sharapova studies via correspondence on the internet with the Keystone High School home schooling program and has a liking for sociology. As of 2004, she is in her second year of high school at 17 years of age.
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