Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (born April 19, 1987) is a former World No. 1 professional tennis player and the world’s highest-paid female athlete. Her parents are originally from Gomel, Belarus, and moved to Siberia, Russia in 1986, after the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Sharapova was born in Nyagan, Russia, the following year. She now lives in the United States, but keeps her Russian citizenship.
In 2004, Sharapova became the third-youngest Wimbledon women’s champion (after Lottie Dod and Martina Hingis) and second-youngest in the Open Era by defeating Ai Sugiyama (5-7, 7-5, 6-1), Lindsay Davenport (2-6, 7-6, 6-1), and defending two-time champion Serena Williams (6-1, 6-4). She also became the first Russian to win that tournament. Sharapova followed it up with a victory at the season-ending WTA Championships, defeating Williams (4-6, 6-2, 6-4). In the final set, she came back from a 0-4 deficit.
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, both on the court, making the semi-finals of the 2005 Australian Open (and holding 3 match points in the semis against eventual champ Williams), and off with numerous endorsements following
Defending her Wimbledon title in 2005, Sharapova sailed through to the semi-finals without losing a set, then lost to a rejuvenated Venus Williams (6-7, 1-6). Sharapova’s streak on grass was ended, as was her quest to dethrone No. 1 Lindsay Davenport.
However, a back injury that Davenport sustained in the Wimbledon final meant that she could not defend the ranking points she obtained during the US hard court season of 2004. 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. Her reign lasted only a week when 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. Sharapova would hold on to the No. 1 ranking for a further six weeks before relinquishing it again to Davenport following the 2005 Zurich Open.
Her 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 record 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 Amlie Mauresmo.
On March 18, 2006, 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 was the 11th title of her career. Sharapova was 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 the event. Soon after, Sharapova reached the final of the Nasdaq-100 losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6, 3-6. She then took 2 months off because of an ankle injury, resulting in her pulling out of events in Rome and Istanbul.
Sharapova decided to participate at the 2006 French Open despite having not played any clay court tune-ups. After saving three match points in the first round against Mashona Washington, Sharapova was eliminated in the fourth round by Dinara Safina, blowing a lead of 5-1 in the third set, and losing 18 of the last 21 points to lose 5-7, 6-2, 5-7. She welcomed the onset of the grass season, but failed to add a third successive Birmingham title to her collection, losing in the semi-finals to the inexperienced American player Jamea Jackson.
For the second consecutive year, Sharapova was defeated in the semi-finals of The Championships, Wimbledon, losing to eventual winner Amlie Mauresmo 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Sharapova currently has a 1-5 record in Grand Slam semi-finals. Sharapova is currently ranked No. 4 in the world. Sharapova has a combined 2-11 record against the top 3 players in the world (0-3 against Mauresmo, 1-4 against Justine Henin-Hardenne, and 1-4 against Kim Clijsters.
Sharapova claimed her second title of 2006 (12th career title) as the second seed at the Acura Classic in San Diego, defeating top seed Kim Clijsters, 7-5 7-5 (Her first victory over Clijsters in five meetings).
Sharapova enters the 2006 U.S. Open seeded third after Kim Clijsters dropped out of the tournament. Sharapova is widely considered a favorite to win the title.
In July 2006 , Maria and her agents sued a Florida based production company Byzantium Productions Inc over illegally using her name and image to promote their documentaries. A federal judge ruled in Byzantium’s favour on August 3 , 2006. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Sharapova)