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Maria Sharapova Profile

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Maria Sharapova
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Maria Sharapova has managed one of the trickier balancing acts for a tennis player: competing with absolute dedication while navigating huge opportunities to cash in on her looks and personality. The last very pretty blonde Russian tennis star, Anna Kournikova, ended up leaving tennis early with a disappointing record because her off-court options were too tempting--and too distracting. Distraction never seems to be a problem for Maria, as her focus, along with her all-out aggressiveness, has made her one of the toughest opponents in women's tennis.

Maria started playing tennis at age four. When she was nine, she left Russia for the Bollettieri Academy in Florida and didn't see her mother, who had to stay in Russia, for two years. Sharapova turned pro in 2001, on her fourteenth birthday.

In 2003, Maria won her first WTA Tour singles titles and played all four Grand Slams, doing best at Wimbledon, where she made the fourth round. In 2004, it was Wimbledon that made her an instant superstar, as, at age 17, she stunned the tennis world by defeating Lindsay Davenport in the semifinal and Serena Williams in the final. Advertisers were as quick to notice as the most avid tennis fan. Within a year, Sharapova had already earned more than 16 million dollars from advertising contracts.

In 2005, Maria became the first Russian to reach number one in the WTA rankings. She didn't win any Grand Slams in 2005 and eventually fell to #2 by year's end, but in 2006, she began to establish an even-year Grand-Slam pattern by winning the US Open. Sharapova briefly regained the number one ranking in 2007, but didn't win her next Slam until the Australian Open of 2008, where she didn't drop a set on her way to the title.

Although 2008 started brilliantly for Maria, it didn't end well, as an injury to her right shoulder caused her to miss a couple of tournaments in the spring and early summer and then withdraw from all competition for the rest of the year. She missed the Olympics, the US Open, and the season-ending championships in 2008, as well as the Australian Open in 2009.

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