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Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (pronunciation: shah-RAH-puh-vuh, incorrect: shah-rah-POH-vuh, Russian: Мари́я Ю́рьевна Шара́пова; born April 19, 1987) is a former World No. 1 professional tennis player and the world’s highest-paid female athlete.
Sharapova has won two Grand Slam singles titles. She is the reigning U.S. Open champion, having won the 2006 title over Justine Henin-Hardenne. Two years earlier, she won the 2004 Wimbledon Championships, defeating Serena Williams in the final.
In 2004, Sharapova became the third-youngest Wimbledon women’s champion (after Lottie Dod and Martina Hingis) and second-youngest in the open era by defeating Ai Sugiyama (5-7, 7-5, 6-1) in the quarterfinals, Lindsay Davenport (2-6, 7-6, 6-1) in the semifinals, and two-time defending champion Serena Williams (6-1, 6-4) in the final. She also became the first Russian to win that tournament. Defeat came at the hands of French player and two time Grand Slam champion, Mary Pierce, at the U.S. Open a few months later. Sharapova ended 2004 with a victory at the season-ending WTA Championships, defeating Williams (4-6, 6-2, 6-4) after coming back from an 0-4 final set deficit. After losing to Sharapova in a semifinal of this event, Anastasia Myskina said: «He [Sharapova’s father] was just yelling and screaming instructions to her and I thought he just might jump right on the court at one point in the match.»
From June 2004 until her Wimbledon semifinal appearance in 2005, Sharapova won 22 straight matches on grass, including back-to-back Birmingham titles and the Wimbledon crown. Sharapova’s success continued after winning Wimbledon, both on the court, making the semifinals of the 2005 Australian Open, holding three match points there before falling to Serena Williams 2-6, 7-5, 8-6, and off it, with numerous commercial endorsements.
Maria Sharapova at Indian Wells in 2005
Maria Sharapova at Indian Wells in 2005
Defending her Wimbledon title in 2005, Sharapova sailed through to the semifinals without losing a set, but then lost to a rejuvenated Venus Williams (7-6, 6-1). Sharapova’s streak on grass was ended, as was her quest to dethrone No. 1 Davenport.
However, a back injury that Davenport sustained in the Wimbledon final meant that she could not defend the ranking points she obtained during the U.S. hard court season of 2004. Sharapova was also suffering from an injury and did not complete a tournament during the season, but she had fewer points to defend and therefore rose to the No. 1 ranking on August 22, 2005. Her reign lasted only a week when Davenport re-ascended after winning the New Haven title. Sharapova rose to the No. 1 ranking again on September 12, 2005, despite losing in the semifinals of the U.S. Open. Sharapova held on to the No. 1 ranking for a further six weeks before relinquishing it again to Davenport following the 2005 Zurich Open.Sharapova’s loss in a semifinal of the 2005 U.S. Open against Kim Clijsters marked the fourth time that season she had lost at a Grand Slam tournament to the eventual champion: Australian Open-SF-Serena Williams, French Open-QF-Justine Henin-Hardenne, Wimbledon-SF-Venus Williams, U.S. Open-SF-Kim Clijsters. That streak was broken in January 2006, when Sharapova lost in an Australian Open semifinal to Henin-Hardenne, who lost in the final to Amélie Mauresmo.
Sharapova, as the third seed, claimed her first title of 2006 at the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells (a Tier 1 event), defeating No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva in the final, 6-1 6-2. This was the 11th title of her career. Sharapova and Dementieva were the first Russians to reach the final of that event. Soon after, Sharapova reached the final of the Nasdaq-100 Open, losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-3.
Sharapova participated at the 2006 French Open having not played any clay court tune-ups. After saving three match points in the first round against Mashona Washington, Sharapova was eliminated in the fourth round by Dinara Safina 7-5, 2-6, 7-5, after Sharapova led 5-1 in the third set. Sharapova lost 18 of the match’s last 21 points.
Sharapova welcomed the onset of the grass season but failed to add a third successive Birmingham title to her collection, losing in the semifinals to American Jamea Jackson.
For the second consecutive year, Sharapova was defeated in the semifinals of Wimbledon, losing to eventual winner Mauresmo 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
Sharapova claimed her second title of 2006 as the second seed at the Acura Classic in San Diego, defeating top seeded Clijsters, 7-5, 7-5. This was Sharapova’s first victory over Clijsters in five meetings.
Sharapova entered the 2006 U.S. Open seeded third after Clijsters dropped out of the tournament with a wrist injury. Considered one of the favorites to reach the final, she lived up to expectations defeating Mauresmo, the number one player in the world, in a semifinal 6-0, 4-6, 6-0. Sharapova was victorious in the final, beating Henin-Hardenne 6-4, 6-4 to win her second Grand Slam title, 13th tournament of her career, and third tournament of the year.
Sharapova won the 2006 Zurich Open, defeating Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in the final. Sharapova then won the Generali Ladies Linz, defeating fellow Russian and defending champion Nadia Petrova 7-5, 6-2. That was her fifth title of 2006 and the 15th title of her career.It has been announced that Sharapova will play for the Russian Fed Cup team for the first time in 2007.
Sharapova currently has a 2-5 record in Grand Slam semifinals. Sharapova is currently ranked No. 2 in the world. She has a combined 3-7 record against the top 2 players in the world (1-3 against Mauresmo and 2-4 against Henin-Hardenne). She is 1-4 against Clijsters and 4-1 against Davenport, both of whom were formerly ranked world No.1.