Career: Sharapova is one of the top players in the world right now. She’s won three Grand Slam titles and has been ranked number one in the world at various times.
Sharapova was born in 1987 to Yuri and Yelena, ethnic Belarusians, in the town of Nyagan' in Siberia, Russia. Her parents moved from Gomel, Belarus after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 affected the region. When Sharapova was two, the family moved to Sochi where her father befriended Aleksandr Kafelnikov, whose son Yevgeny would go on to win two Grand Slam singles titles and became Russia's first ever World No. 1 tennis player. Aleksandr gave Sharapova her first tennis racket at the age of four, where upon she began practicing regularly with her father in a local park. She took her first tennis lessons with veteran Russian coach Yuri Yutkin, who was instantly impressed when he first saw her, noting her "exceptional hand-eye co-ordination."
At the age of seven, Sharapova attended a tennis clinic in Moscow run by Martina Navrátilová, who recommended professional training at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida, which had previously trained players such as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova. With money tight, Yuri was forced to borrow the sum that would allow him and his daughter, neither of whom could speak English, to travel to America, which they finally did in 1994. Visa restrictions prevented Sharapova's mother from joining them for two years. Arriving in Florida with just $700 to his name,Sharapova's father took various low-paying jobs, including dish-washing, to fund her lessons until she was old enough to be admitted to the academy. In 1995, she was signed by IMG, who agreed to pay the annual tuition fee of $35,000 for Sharapova to stay at the academy, allowing her to finally enroll at the age of 9.
After playing two exhibition tournaments in Asia, Sharapova officially began her season at theAustralian Open, where she was upset in her first round by Maria Kirilenko. The loss meant that for the first time since 2003, Sharapova had lost her opening match at a Grand Slam event. Immediately bouncing back, she competed in the Cellular South Cup, winning her 21st career WTA title and first of the year.
At the BNP Paribas Open, Sharapova lost in the third round to Zheng Jie, aggravating a bruised bone on her right elbow in the process, which resulted in her eventual withdrawal from the Sony Ericsson Open, and the Family Circle Cup.
Returning at the 2010 Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open, Sharapova lost in the first round to Lucie Šafářová. She continued her French Open preparation at the Internationaux de Strasbourg with her first title on red clay and 22nd overall title. Her brief clay season culminated with a third round loss to four-time champion Justine Henin at the French Open. It was her seventh loss to the Belgian in ten career meetings.
Sharapova began her preparations for Wimbledon by making the final of the AEGON Classic for the fourth time since 2007, losing there to Li Na. As the 16th seed at Wimbledon, she made it to the fourth round before losing to world No. 1 and eventual champion Serena Williams, despite having three set points in the opening set. The match was seen as another encouraging performance for Sharapova, with some stating their belief that she was approaching the form that would see her contending for Grand Slams once more, and Sharapova herself stating she feels that she is "in a much better spot than I was last year."
Sharapova started the US Open Series campaign at the Stanford. She advanced to the finals before losing to World No. 18 Victoria Azarenka in straight sets. Her next tournament was at the Western and Southern Financial Group Women's Open. Again, she made it to the finals, this time losing to Kim Clijsters in three sets.
At the 2010 U.S. Open, Sharapova made it to the round of 16, before losing to top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki.
Her last two tournaments of the season would end in disappointment. She played in the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she was upset in the first round by 39-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm.Her last tournament of the year would be the China Open, she would beat Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in the 1st round, but she would once again be upset, this time in the 2nd round to fellow Russian Elena Vesnina. Days later she announced the end of her 2010 season. She would end the year at #18 in the world.
It was announced that Sharapova would bring in Thomas Hogstedt as a coach for the 2011 season, joining Michael Joyce. On December 5, Maria played an exhibition match against World No. 2 Vera Zvonareva in Monterrey, Mexico. She would go on to win that match, 6–1, 7–5.
Sharapova would quickly be confirmed for her first tournament of the year, the ASB Classic inAuckland, New Zealand, held from January 4 to 9. She was also announced to be leading theRussia Fed Cup team against France in February, in their first-round tie.
In her first ever official Australian Open warm-up tournament at the ASB Classic in Auckland, she was the top seed. Sharapova beat Alberta Brianti and Renata Voráčová in straight-set matches, before being defeated by the Hungarian veteran Gréta Arn, who went on to take the title.
After the ASB Classic Sharapova decided to take a hiatus from Joyce's coaching, despite having worked together for a number of years including during her successful years where she became a multiple grand slam champion.
Sharapova participated in the first grand slam of the season at the Australian Open, where she was the 14th seeded player. She made it into the second round after beating former doubles partner, Tamarine Tanasugarn 6–1, 6–3 on Rod Laver Arena. Sharapova then defeated Virginie Razzano in round two 7–6, (7–3), 6–3 on Hisense Arena. In the third round she faced Julia Görges of Germany; after an episode in which officials dealt with and resolved an under-court air bubble which kept the ball from bouncing at a certain spot on the court, Sharapova advanced to the fourth round. In the fourth round, she displayed her on-going inconsistency, hitting many unforced errors and double faults, and was defeated by Andrea Petkovic 2–6, 3–6.
After a Fed Cup tie against France, which she lost to Virginie Razzano, Sharapova withdrew from theOpen GDF Suez in Paris. She also had to pull out of Dubai due to an ear infection.
Sharapova returned to the tour in March by taking part in the first premier mandatory tournament of the year, the 2011 BNP Paribas Open, where she was seeded 16th. After a first round bye she defeatedAnabel Medina Garrigues, 7–5, 6–7(3), 6–1, 20th seed Aravane Rezai 6–2, 6–2, former World No. 1Dinara Safina, 6–2, 6–0 and Shuai Peng, 6–2, 5–7, 6–3 to reach the semi-finals where she lost to World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 1–6, 2–6.
Sharapova's next tournament would be at the second premier mandatory tournament, the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Miami. As she was the 16th seed, she received a bye to the second round where she dismissed Petra Martic 6–3, 6–2 in a little over an hour. In the third round, she won convincingly against Sabine Lisicki 6–2, 6–0 in a 58 minute match where she won 10 consecutive games to advance to the fourth round. She froutined World No. 4 Samantha Stosur, 6–4, 6–1 and improving her lopsided head-to-head to 7-0. This victory marks her first top 5 win since defeating Ana Ivanovic at the 2008 Australian Open championship match. In the quarter-finals, she defeated 26th seed Alexandra Dulgheru in an epic three hour match prevailing, 3–6, 7–6(6), 7–6(5). By reaching the semi-finals, she has guaranteed her return to the top 10 for the first time since February 1st, 2009.
Sharapova's following tournament will be at the 2011 Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina to mark the beginning of her clay season campaign.