Maria Sharapova is a Russian female tennis player who was once regarded as the face of tennis. A five times Grand Slam winner first broke the glass ceiling when she overcame the rising Serena Williams’ domination to win the Wimbledon in 2004 at just 17 years of age.
She had to wait for two years to taste the grand slam glory again as she won the US open in 2006. Ever since that, she became one of the most recognizable faces in the tennis world.
Early Life and Introduction to Tennis
Sharapova was born on April 19, 1987, in Nyagan, Russian SFSR. Fearing the repercussions of 1986 Chernobyl nuclear leak, her family moved away and in 1994, became US citizens.
She was introduced to tennis at a very young age and her father Yuri Sharapova became a guiding light. She blossomed early and her tennis skills allowed her to join the renowned IMG academy.
Sharapova Career in Numbers
Her talent and potential were brought to fore when she became the youngest Junior Australian Open finalist at 14 years in 2002. She went on to repeat her feat in the US Open Juniors in the same year as well. Her first professional Grand Slam participation was the 2003 Australian Open.
She consistently rose through the ranks but she burst into limelight after her famous Wimbledon win in 2004 where she upset the title favourite Serena Williams to claim her first Grand Slam. At 17 years of age, she became the third youngest Wimbledon women's singles champion in history.
She continued her good run in the WTA events and to put a cherry on the top, she won the year end WTA Tour Championship Finals.
Her form continued in 2005 and she was ranked number one in the WTA rankings for the first time. Her stint at the top was short lived but her good performances continued.
But it was a barren spell for her in terms of Grand Slams. However, her moment of glory finally came in 2006 US Open where she defeated Justine Henin in the finals to win her second Grand Slam.
Ups and Downs
After the 2006 win began her struggles and bitter tryst with injuries. Being runners up at the Australian Open was the highlight of an injury prone 2007. But 2008 started on a perfect note as she won her third Grand Slam at the Australian Open.
Injuries and poor form restricted her performances in 2009-10. After the slump, she made a roaring return as she reached the finals of 2011 Wimbledon and 2012 Australian Open.
And then in the 2012 French Open, she managed to win her Career Slam. She continued her good run and won a silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics losing out to arch nemesis Serena Williams.
Williams had the better of Sharapova over the years and she again proved too hard to crack in the 2013 French Open finals. Sharapova was finally rewarded for her resilience when she won her second French Open next year.
In March 2016 the sports world was stunned when Sharapova was found guilty of consuming banned drugs by the World Anti-Doping Agency. She was tested positive for meldonium in her system. Sharapova boldly confessed of her error stating that she had been using meldonium for the last 10 years.
She explained that meldonium was made illegal by WADA with effect from January 2016 and she was at fault in failing to be more cautious. She claimed that over the years, her consumption was completely legal and prescribed strictly to enhance performance.
However, she was severely accused of bringing shame to the tennis fraternity. Her sponsorship deals were impacted and she was banned from professional tennis for 15-months.
Comeback and Recent Performances
After a long hiatus, Sharapova returned to professional tennis in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix 2017. There was a huge furor over giving her a wildcard entry in the tournaments as players demanded her to prove her merit. She put impressive displays and went as far as the fourth round of the US Open.
Her first WTA title after the suspension came in the 2017 Tianjin Open.