Maria Sharapova is regarded as a great of women’s tennis. She ranks 11th among the most successful female players of the Open Era, winning five Grand Slams and ranking as the world number one for a total of 21 weeks.
As the Russian turns 34, GiveMeSport Women looks back at the defining moments of her career, including her famed feud with Serena Williams and the controversy surrounding her doping ban.
The rise of Sharapova
Born in the Russian town of Nyagan in Russia, Maria Sharapova first hit a tennis ball when she was four years old. Since then, she has gone on to win the greatest accolades of the sport, including a career Grand Slam.
There are very few players who have had as big of an impact on their sport as Sharapova has had on tennis. She broke onto the public’s radar because of her sporting achievements, but it was her blonde hair and good looks that made big brands line up with lucrative endorsement deals for tennis’s newest star, catapulting her to fame and Forbes’ ‘Rich List’.
Sharapova made her professional debut in 2002 on her 14th birthday. Within a year, she was in the top 50. Less than a year after that, she was a household name after lifting her first major trophy, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets at the 2004 Wimbledon final.
It seems like the Russian liked winning Grand Slams every other year. Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006 and then the Australian Open in 2008, before two French Open wins in 2012 and 2014.
At 21, Sharapova had three Grand Slam titles to her name after securing the Australian Open in 2008, but the pinnacle of her career came in 2012. She became the tenth woman to achieve a career Grand Slam by beating Sara Errani in the final of the French Open.
Yet, it was also a year that Sharapova fell short and Williams came up trumps once again, thrashing her in the Olympic final 6-0, 6-1 and ensuring it was a silver medal rather than a gold one around Sharapova’s neck.
Her final major victory arrived in 2014 – her second French Open title and fifth overall. By this point, a shoulder injury had become a regular source of frustration for the Russian and something which continued until she retired last year. She had relied on a hard-hitting style of play and a powerful first and second serve, but these strengths were diminished by the injury and consequent surgery.