Maria Yuryevna Sharapova was born in Nyaga, Russia on April 19, 1987 but, at the age of five, was ‘discovered’ by Martina Navratilova at a tennis clinic in Moscow. On the advice of the 18-time Grand Slam singles winner, Sharapova to Florida with her father in 1994 and never really looked back.
Sharapova turned professional in 2001, at the age of 14, at a time when her aggressive, hard-hitting style of play – characterised by powerful serving and ground strokes – was starting to become en vogue. She eventually grew to a height of 6’2″, which gave her a significant height advantage over most opponents.
In any event, Sharapova won her first Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 2004, beating Serena Williams in straight sets in the final. She went on to become the first and, so far, only Russian woman to complete a career Grand Slam, winning the US Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and the French Open twice, in 2012 and 2014.
In February, 2016, Sharapova admitted that she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open the previous month, having tested positive for meldonium, or mildronate, on the same day as her quarter-final defeat by Serena Williams. The drug, which she had knowingly taken for ten years, was only banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on January 1, 2016. Sharapova was, nonetheless, suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for two years, reduced to 15 months on appeal.
On her return to the WTA Tour in April, 2017, her comeback was hampered by ongoing injury problems. Having failed to regain her previous form, in February, 2020, at the age of 32, Sharapova announced her shock retirement in an exclusive essay for ‘Vanity Fair’ and ‘Vogue’.