Tennis has always been a game where the greats turn heads wherever they go, on or off the court. Maria Sharapova most definitely belongs in this company – she has skills that almost none of her rivals can even dream of.
She’s kept herself at the top of her sport for a decade and a half, and she’s overcome problems throughout her career with a determination and style that has won gasps of admiration.
The Russian superstar has won every one of the four Grand Slam singles titles, something no other woman from her country has managed.
She’s been ranked world number one by the ATP not once but five times.
She has an Olympic medal in her trophy cabinet, and outside the sport she’s also noted as a highly successful model, as well as acting as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.
This woman is not short of achievements.
Maria Sharapova’s Career Blasts Off
Sharapova first held a racquet in her hand at the age of four, back home in Russia, and straight away she was showing her potential at the nearby park’s rubber playground mats.
Her father took her to Yuri Yutkin, one of Russia’s most storied coaches, and he was impressed by her superb coordination and movement.
By the age of six, young Maria was playing at Martina Navratilova’s Moscow tennis clinic. She was on her way.
For a potential pro like Sharapova, warm-weather training was a must, and so she went with her dad to Florida’s IMG Academy in 1994.
Her dad worked a number of menial jobs to pay for his daughter’s lessons, but by 1995 – still aged just nine – she was so good that IMG itself paid her $35,000 a year tuition.
By the time she was 13, she was winning global junior tournaments.
At the time, players could turn professional aged 14, and Sharapova made her pro debut on her birthday, winning her first match before being overwhelmed by Monica Seles.
She was only allowed to play a few pro events a year, so she continued to work hard in the junior ranks. In 2004, she won her first senior title at the Japan Open, and was chosen as WTA Newcomer of the Year.
At this point, Sharapova had great potential, but that was about it. That all changed forever in 2004.
For the first time, she joined the elite of the WTA Top 20, and later reached the French Open quarter-finals on the red clay of Roland Garros.
At Wimbledon, though, she sensationally beat all-time great Serena Williams in the final. From now on, her life would never be the same.
Maria Sharapova’s Major Titles
- Australian Open: 1 (2008)
- French Open: 2 (2012, 2014)
- Wimbledon: 1 (2004)
- U.S. Open: 1 (2006)
Even More of Maria Sharapova’s Achievements
Now a top-ten player, Sharapova felt the eyes of the world on her, but with her usual poise and elegance she coped pretty well.
Although her record in the remaining majors was modest, she caught the eye again in the WTA Tour Championships at the end of the season.
Here, Sharapova rescued a seemingly hopeless position against – again – Serena Williams, recovering from 0-4 in the final set to take the title.
Was Sharapova done yet? Not a chance. In 2005, she reached the semis in Australia and the quarter-finals in France before heading to England to defend her Wimbledon crown.
She was almost unbeatable as she cruised to the semi-finals, but then found Venus Williams too strong an opponent.
Even so, she’d done enough to become the first ever Russian woman to be ranked number one in the world.
Maria Sharapova vs. Ana Ivanovic (Australian Open 2008 Highlights)
The years from 2006 to 2008 saw Sharapova always at or near the top of world tennis, spending several periods at number one and winning one U.S. and one Australian Open.
There were occasional hiccups like her early exit from Wimbledon in 2007, but she was always respected by her opponents and her supreme self-confidence meant she believed she could overcome anyone who stood across the net from her.
In spite of her on-court feats, these weren’t always easy times for Sharapova, as a recurrent shoulder injury meant she was forced to miss the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.
She enjoyed relaxing away from the court with her high-profile modeling work, including an appearance in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue in 2006, and by now she was earning close to $20 million a year.
The after-effects of her injury caused Sharapova serious problems over the next couple of years, and she spent extended periods unable to play at the highest level and reduced to training on outdoor floor mats or in the gym.
There were serious worries that she would be forced to quit elite tennis, and at times she struggled even to be seeded at the Grand Slam events – she was seeded just 29th at the 2009 U. S. Open.
Times like these have given Sharapova a level-headed outlook on life.
That’s pretty clear from these quotes:
“If everything was going smoothly you would never build character.”
– Sharapova understands that losing can be as valuable as winning, as long as you use the experience to help you next time.
” It’s pretty hard being a tennis player and Mother Theresa at the same time and that’s just the way it is.”
– Sharapova doesn’t get down when she’s criticized for actions in her personal life. She’s a human being, not a robot.
” When I walk through that gate to the court, that’s my escape. I block out everything, good and bad.”
– when Sharapova is playing, that’s all she cares about. She loves playing tennis and doesn’t let anything else in her life change that.
“I don’t follow other players or the tournaments they play. I have my own schedule and do my own thing.”
– Sharapova is her own woman, and doesn’t feel the need to worry about, or emulate, other players.
“I don’t need a fancy party to be happy. Just good friends, good food, and good laughs.”
– even though she’s a global superstar, Sharapova keeps her feet on the ground and enjoys simple pleasures.
The Benefits of Maria Sharapova’s Workout Regime
Lesser players might have given up and retired, but Sharapova was determined to return to her best.
She pushed herself in a tough workout regime that included muscle work on the top rated grass mats she could find, as well as hitting ball after ball on the practice court.
This hard training was rewarded in 2011, when her stamina took her through a three hour, 28 minute match in the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open.
Sharapova continued to train hard, reaching the final at Wimbledon before losing to Petra Kvitova and finishing the season ranked world number four.
She was on her way back. Incredibly, she went one better at the 2012 French Open and completed a rare career grand slam by beating Sara Errani in the final.
Sharapova was honored with the role of Russia’s flag-carrier for the 2012 Olympics in London; she won silver.
Maria Sharapova High Intensity Training (HIT)
After all that hard work, Sharapova suffered yet another shoulder injury in 2013, but once again pushed herself to the limit to return in triumph at Roland Garros in 2014.
For a player whose game was originally all about power, this second win on the slow French clay proved that she had become a truly great all-rounder. As she approached her 30th birthday, the sky seemed the limit.
In 2016, disaster struck. Already in pain from further injuries, Sharapova failed a drug test at the Australian Open.
She argued her case strongly, with the support of the Russian government, and the original two-year ban handed down by the ITF was reduced to 14 months.
But she could not play pro tennis again until April 2017, instead training on the best interlocking mats indoors and spending time on her business interests.
When Sharapova returned, her form was erratic, not helped by further injuries and being denied a wildcard for the French Open.
Her self-belief brought her the Tianjin Open title at the end of 2017, but this was a rare bright spot. By the spring of 2018, her poor form saw her out of the world top 50.
Even so, still aged just 31 and with stellar shot-making skills, who would bet against Maria Sharapova returning to the top?
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Photos from: zhukovsky / depositphotos.com, mostennis / depositphotos.com.
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