Maria Sharapova is one of the most popular female athletes in the world, and also one of the most successful. The winner of 5 Grand Slams in singles, and with a slew of endorsement deals in her bag, Sharapova is often called the face of women's tennis.
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams:
Australian Open: Champion (2008)
French Open: 2-time Champion (2012, 2014)
Wimbledon: Champion (2004)
US Open: Champion (2006)
Highest Ranking: No. 1
No. of weeks at No. 1: 21
Style of play, strengths and weaknesses
Sharapova is a hard-hitting baseliner who likes to use her height and power to wrest the initiative away from her opponents.
Standing 6'2" tall, Sharapova is capable of hitting flat groundstrokes from virtually any position in the court. She hits big off both wings, although her backhand is more reliable than her forehand.
Sharapova has a good first serve but a very shaky second serve. She doesn't go for much spin on the second serve, so when it lands in it often wins her a free point. The flip side is that she doesn't have as much control over it as most other top players do, and coughs up a fair few double faults in almost every match.
Sharapova doesn't have the softest hands and so refrains from coming to the net too often. However, she has an excellent swing volley which she uses to finish points whenever she finds herself in the middle of the court.
Sharapova has a very effective return, with both the forehand and the backhand. Her long limbs enable her to reach wide serves and return them with interest.
Sharapova's movement is not the quickest. While she has worked on improving her footwork over the years, she still gets wrong-footed on many occasions.
Significant Maria Sharapova records
Sharapova has put together a remarkable career for herself. Here is a list of her most impressive records:
- One of only 10 women to complete the Career Grand Slam (winning all the four Grand Slams)
- First Russian woman to achieve the World No. 1 ranking
- 3rd-youngest woman to win Wimbledon, behind Lottie Dod and Martina Hingis
Sharapova was born in Nyagan, Russia, but her family soon moved to Sochi in order to escape the after-effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Having picked up tennis at the age of four, Sharapova displayed exceptional hand-eye coordination early on. That convinced her father Yuri Sharapov to move to Florida, so that she could join the IMG Tennis Academy there.
The father-daughter duo moved to the USA in 1994, and Maria joined the academy in 1996 at the age of nine.
She climbed up the ranks of junior tennis very quickly in the USA, and in 2002 became the youngest girl ever to reach the final of the Australian Open junior tournament. After her pro tour debut and Wimbledon win at the age of 17, she became one of the most recognizable faces in tennis, winning several endorsement deals including Nike, Tag Heuer, Porsche, Head and Evian.
In 2016 Sharapova shocked the world by announcing that she had tested positive for the banned substance meldonium, which she insisted she had been taking for the previous 10 years for medical reasons. She was given a 15-month suspension by the ITF for her transgression, and when she returned to the tour in 2017 she was met with hostility by several players and experts who believed she had got off lightly.
Sharapova has her own candy brand called 'Sugarpova', which she launched in 2013.
With 5 Grand Slams, numerous stints as World No. 1 and a host of other big titles, Sharapova has put together a Hall-of-Fame worthy career. Her intensity and relentlessness have been widely praised by tennis watchers all over the world, and her ability to overcome her physical limitations with mental strength alone has made her a popular icon.
At the start of her career, many feared that she would follow in the footsteps of fellow Russian Anna Kournikova - millions of dollars in endorsement deals, but middling success on the court. Sharapova put paid to those thoughts with her achievements at the Slams, and made a mark for herself as one of the best players of the 21st century.
Her drug-related suspension in 2016 does put a question mark on her legacy. But the fact that she has returned to the tour and challenged for titles again suggests that she would've been a champion regardless of her meldonium use.
Sharapova continues to draw in huge crowds wherever she plays, and the suspension aside, she has been a terrific ambassador for the sport of tennis.