Maria Sharapova was on Wednesday banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after testing positive for meldonium during January’s Australian OpenAgence France-PresseUpdated: June 08, 2016 09:46 PM ISTRead Time:4 min
Maria Sharapova: Rags to Riches to Doping Shame
Sharapova was a brand ambassador for Porsche, Cole Haan and in 2010 signed a contract extension with Nike worth a reported USD 70 million.© AFP
Maria Sharapova shot to fame by winning Wimbledon at 17 in 2004Sharapova was banned by ITF for two years on WednesdaySharapova tested positive for meldonium during January’s Australian Open
Maria Sharapova’s story begins from the shadow of Chernobyl’s nuclear wasteland to international super-stardom and from penniless arrival in the United States, without a word of English, to a fortune nudging the USD 200 million mark.
It may sound like the stuff of Hollywood dreams, but Sharapova’sstory, the world’s richest sportswoman, was a testament to the power of one individual to make it, whatever the odds.
However, on Wednesday, the 29-year-old Russian’s rags-to-riches story was seemingly at an end when she was banned for two years for failing a drugs test at January’s Australian Open.
Sharapova shot to international fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004 — the third youngest player to conquer the All England Club’s famous grass courts.
She would go on to win once in Australia and once at the US Open while claiming two titles at the French Open, despite famously likening her movement on Roland Garros’s crushed red brick as a “cow on ice.”
Siberia-born Sharapova first picked up a racquet at the age of four when she was living in Sochi, where her Belarus-born parents had settled after escaping the deadly clutches of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Spotted by Martina Navratilova, she was encouraged to move to Nick Bollettieri’s Florida academy, the proving ground of Andre Agassi and Monica Seles.
Father Yuri and the seven-year-old Maria left for the US in 1994 with just a borrowed USD 700 to their names.
“I was living a normal, average, everyday life back in Russia and we had a dream,” she recalled.
Yuri took odd jobs like dishwashing to finance his daughter’s dreams although visa restrictions meant mother Yelena was back in Russia, separated from her daughter for two years.
When Sharapova was nine, the mighty IMG group spotted her talent, funded the USD 35,000 fees required for the Bollettieri school and the young Maria was on her way.