Monday, September 19, 2011

Maria Sharapova

Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (born April 19, 1987) is a Russian professional tennis player and a former World No. 1. A US resident since 1994, 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 invitational 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 Aug 22, 2005 and last regained this ranking for the fourth time on May 19, 2008. She is currently ranked World No. 2. She has been in 5 Grand Slam finals. Her Grand Slam final record is 3–2.
Sharapova made her professional breakthrough in 2004 when, at age 17, she upset 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 ten of the WTA Rankings with this win. Despite not winning a major in 2005, Sharapova briefly held the number one 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 number one ranking in May 2008, Sharapova's shoulder problems re-surfaced, ultimately requiring surgery in October and forcing her out of the game for nearly ten 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 5 singles titles (bringing her career total to 24) and improved her ranking to the world number 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. 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.
Sharapova was born in 1987 to Yury and Yelena, in the town of Nyagan in Siberia, Russia. Her parents moved from Gomel, Belarus, after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 affected the region. 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. 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."
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.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.Visa restrictions prevented Sharapova's mother from joining them for two years.Arriving in Florida with savings of US$700, 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.
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. She was then given a special award, the Rising Star Award, which is awarded only to players of exceptional promise. 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.
From 2003, Sharapova played a full season, and made a rapid climb into the top 50 by the end of the year.She made her debuts at both the Australian Open and the French Open, but failed to win a match in either. It wasn't until the grass season that she began to fulfill her promise, beating a top 20 player for the first time and reaching her first ever 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.

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.

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