Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (born April 19, 1987) is Russian born, former World No. 1 professional tennis player and three time Grand Slam singles champion. As of October 26, 2009, she is ranked World No. 14.
When Sharapova was six, she and her father moved from their life of poverty in Russia to the United States, to enroll her in the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. After rising rapidly through the junior and professional ranks in the years that followed, Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17. In the two years that followed, Sharapova won eight titles on the WTA Tour and had two brief stints as the World No. 1. However, she lost all five Grand Slam semifinals she played during this period. She ultimately won her second Grand Slam title at the 2006 US Open.
In 2007, a right shoulder injury forced Sharapova to withdraw from numerous tournaments. This injury was partially responsible for her dropping out of the top five on the WTA world rankings for the first time in three years. Although she won her third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in early 2008 and returned to the World No. 1 position later in the year, her shoulder needed surgery in October 2008. Sharapova was away from the sport for ten months until May 2009, which caused her ranking to drop out of the top 100. Since returning, Sharapova's ranking has recovered to within the top 15.
Sharapova's public profile extends beyond tennis. She has been featured in a number of modeling assignments, including a feature in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Sharapova was the most searched-for athlete on Yahoo! in both 2005 and 2008. In July 2008, as a result of her success both on and off court, she was the world's highest-paid female athlete, earning US$26 million. Since February 2007, she has been a United Nations Development Project Goodwill Ambassador, concerned specifically with efforts in Chernobyl to recover from the 1986 nuclear disaster.
Sharapova was born in 1987 to Yuri and Elena, ethnic Russians, 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 become 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 in a local park.
At the age of six, 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. Sharapova and her father, neither of whom could speak English, moved to Florida in 1994. Visa restrictions prevented Sharapova's mother from joining them for two years. Sharapova's father took various low-paying jobs, including dish washing, to fund her lessons before she was admitted to the academy. In 1995, she was signed by IMG and finally enrolled in the academy.