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Maria Sharapova - The Child Prodigy of Tennis
 
Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (Russian: Мари́я Ю́рьевна Шара́пова;) was born on 19 April 1987 in Nyagan, USSR. When Sharapova was two, the family moved to the South of the country, to Sochi. There her father Yuri met Aleksandr Kafelnikov, father of the famous tennis player, who gave Sharapova her first tennis racquet in 1991 when she was four - the gifted girl started practicing, first with her father and then with a coach.
 
When Sharapova was 6, Martina Navratilova saw the girl and strongly recommended professional training at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida - the academy whose students included  Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, and Anna Kournikova.
 
With money tight, Yuri Sharapov borrowed the sum needed to travel to the United States... Sharapova and her father (her mother could not obtain a visa) arrived in Florida with about $700 in cash, so Yuri had to take up various menial jobs, including dishwashing, to pay for the living and the lessons!
 
Sharapova made her breakthrough aged only 17, defeating two-time champion and top seed Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final! The victory propelled her into the top 10 of the WTA Rankings. Next year she became No. 1 in the ranking, and subsequently won major titles at the 2006 US Open, 2008 Australian Open, 2012 French Open and 2014 French Open.
 
Sharapova has an illustrious modeling career: she has been featured in dozens of ads for leading fashion brands, including Cole Haan, Nike, Prince, and Canon, as well as in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. In addition, Sharapova and candy veteran Jeff Rubin created the  "Sugarpova" candy line.
 
According to some sources, Sharapova seriously considered changing her last name to "Sugarpova" for the 2013 US Open, but finally decided against it!
 
Since February 2007, she has been a United Nations Development Program Goodwill Ambassador, concerned specifically with the Chernobyl recovery program - her parents used to live in the area affected by the disaster. From 2005 to 2011, Sharapova was named in Forbes Celebrity 100, making her one of the most influential people on Earth.
 
Sharapova's private life has been in the center of public interest. From 2009 to 2012 she was in a relationship with Slovenian professional basketball player Sasha Vujacic. She has been dating Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov since 2012.
 
Sources:
"Players: Maria Sharapova". WTA.
Paul Kimmage (January 13, 2008). "The Big Interview: Maria Sharapova". The Times (London)

 


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