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Maria Yuryevna Sharαpova (born April 19, 1987) is a Russian professional tennis player who is a former World No. 1. As of April 14, 2008, she is the fourth-ranked female player in the world. At the end of 2006, she was the world's highest-paid female athlete. Sharapova has won three Grand Slam singles titles. In 2004, she beat Serena Williams to take the Wimbledon title at the age of 17. Two years later, she defeated Justine Henin in the final of the 2006 U.S. Open. At the 2008 Australian Open, she beat Ana Ivanovic in the final

Family & Playing Styles

Sharapova has been labeled as a power baseliner by tennis critics and fans. Sharapova usually serves for placement, but uses enough power on her first and second serve that attacking that stroke is very difficult for her opponents. She has been trying to develop her "all-power" game, while also adding in slice, drop shots and drop volleys.Due to shoulder injuries, Sharapova adopted a new service action with a shorter backswing after Wimbledon 2007. Her first and second serve became less effective during the majority of the 2007 season. Previously, she had an elongated backswing to generate power on her serve. However, as a trade-off, the swing also placed incredible strain on her shoulder, leading to Sharapova's shoulder injury at the beginning of the 2007 season. With her shoulder injury apparently healed, Sharapova has since returned to her elongated service motion, and her serve has been more effective in 2008.

Sharapova is ambidextrous and played left-handed until she was ten years old, before deciding to play right-handed. Although she almost always employs a right-handed forehand and double-handed backhand, she has one of the most accurate double-handed backhand shots and is known to occasionally hit left-handed shots as a result of her early left-handed training. She has also been criticised for her on-court "grunting."Sharapova has won every Grand Slam singles title except the French Open. She believes that winning the French Open will be a big challenge because her aggressive game does not suit a clay surface

Career in 2007 & 2008

Sharapova reached the final of the JB Group Classic, an exhibition tournament in Hong Kong, where she was defeated by Kim Clijsters 6–3, 7–6(8).Sharapova was the top seed at the Australian Open because of World No. 1 Justine Henin's withdrawal. Sharapova defeated the 62nd-ranked Camille Pin in the first round 6–3, 4–6, 9–7 on her fourth match point in air temperatures that exceeded 40 °C (104 °F) and on-court temperatures that exceeded 50 °C (122 °F). In the semifinals, Sharapova defeated fourth-seeded Clijsters to reach her first Australian Open final and gain the opportunity to win the only Grand Slam singles title that a Russian woman had not yet won. However, Serena Williams, ranked World No. 81, overpowered Sharapova 6–1, 6–2 in the final. Reaching the final allowed Sharapova to recapture the World No. 1 ranking.

Partly due to hamstring and shoulder injuries that reduced the effectiveness of her serve, Sharapova did not win any of her next three tournaments. At the Tier I Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Sharapova retired from her semifinal match with Ana Ivanovic. At the Tier I Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California, Sharapova lost to Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round 4–6, 7–5, 6–1 after Sharapova lead 5–4 in the second set. This loss resulted in her losing the World No. 1 ranking. In the fourth round of the Tier I Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, Sharapova lost to Serena Williams for the second consecutive time 6–1, 6–1. In the third round of that tournament, Sharapova had beaten Venus Williams 2–6, 6–2, 7–5.

Injuries forced Sharapova to miss most the clay court season for the second consecutive year. Her only tune-up for the French Open was the Istanbul Cup, where she lost to Frenchwoman Aravane Rezaο in the semifinals 6–2, 6–4. She then reached the semifinals of the French Open for the first time in her career (saving a match point against Patty Schnyder in the fourth round), but fell to Ivanovic 6–2, 6–1.On grass at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, United Kingdom, Sharapova lost in the final to second seeded Jelena Jankovic 4–6, 6–3, 7–5. At Wimbledon, Sharapova lost to Venus Williams in the fourth round 6–1, 6–3.

Sharapova's first summer hardcourt tournament was the Tier I Acura Classic in San Diego, California, where she was the defending champion. She progressed to the final relatively easily, showing few of the serving problems that had dogged her all year. In the final, she defeated eleventh-seeded Schnyder 6–2, 3–6, 6–0, claiming her first title of the year, fifth Tier I title of her career, and the 16th singles title of her career.

At the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles, a shin injury caused Sharapova to withdraw from her semifinal match with fellow Russian Nadia Petrova shortly before the match started. Nevertheless, she clinched the US Open Series for the first time.Seeded second at the 2007 U.S. Open, Sharapova won her first two matches with the loss of only two games but then lost her third round match to 18-year-old Pole Agnieszka Radwanska 6–4, 1–6, 6–2, partly due to poor serving and a host of unforced errors. It was Sharapova's earliest exit at a Grand Slam singles tournament since she lost in the same round at the 2004 U.S. Open.

Sharapova did not play again until the Tier I Kremlin Cup in Moscow in October, where she lost to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the second round, 7–6(9), 6–2 (after a first-round bye). The recurring shoulder problem then forced Sharapova to withdraw from events in Zurich and Linz, at both of which she was the defending champion.Sharapova qualified for the WTA Tour Championships only because Venus Williams withdrew from the tournament. Playing only her second match in two months, Sharapova beat World No. 9 Daniela Hantuchovα 6–4, 7–5 in her first round-robin match, before coming from a set down to defeat World No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova 5–7, 6–2, 6–2 to ensure a place in the semifinals. In her final round robin match, Sharapova defeated Ivanovic 6–1, 6–2 in just over an hour.

As the winner of the Red Group, Sharapova then played the runner-up of the Yellow Group, Anna Chakvetadze, in the semifinals. Sharapova won that match 6–2, 6–2. In the final, Sharapova lost to World No. 1 Henin 5–7, 7–5, 6–3 in a match that lasted 3 hours and 24 minutes. This was the 12th longest tour match during the open era.Sharapova ended the year as World No. 5 on the official WTA tour rankings, the fourth consecutive year that she finished in the top five. However, for the first time since 2004, she did not finish the year as the top ranked Russian. Kuznetsova, who finished World No. 2, held that honor. Sharapova also won just one title (at San Diego), the first time she had failed to win at least two titles since 2002 (when she played just three WTA matches).

After beating Anna Chakvetadze in an exhibition match in Singapore, Sharapova reached the final of the JB Group Classic exhibition tournament in Hong Kong, where she lost to Venus Williams in the final 6–4, 6–3.

Sharapova was the fifth seed at the Australian Open, her lowest seeding at a Grand Slam singles tournament since the 2004 U.S. Open.[citation needed] On the way to the quarterfinals, Sharapova defeated Lindsay Davenport in the second round[7] and Elena Dementieva in the fourth round. In the quarterfinals, Sharapova defeated World No. 1 Justine Henin 6–4, 6–0,[8] snapping Henin's 32-match winning streak. Sharapova then reached her second consecutive Australian Open final when she defeated an injured Jelena Jankovic 6–3, 6–1. She defeated Ana Ivanovic 7–5, 6–3 in the final, dropping only 10 service points during the match.[9] Sharapova now needs just the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam in singles.

After the Australian Open, Sharapova participated for the first time in Fed Cup. In the quarterfinal tie against Israel, Sharapova helped Russia reach the semifinals by winning her singles matches against Tzipora Obziler and Shahar Pe'er.At the Qatar Total Open in Doha, Sharapova won the singles title by defeating Vera Zvonareva in a three-set final. This was Sharapova's second title of the year, sixth career Tier I singles title, 18th career singles title, and 14th consecutive match win. She has won the Doha singles title both years she has played the event, the first coming in 2005.

At the Tier I Pacific Life Open, Sharapova defeated the defending champion, Daniela Hantuchovα, in the quarterfinals 7–6(2), 6–1 before losing in the semifinals to Svetlana Kuznetsova 6–3, 5–7, 6–2. This was Sharapova's first loss of the year after 18 wins. Sharapova then withdrew from the Tier I Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida because of a shoulder injury.

At the Tier II Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, Florida, Sharapova was the top seeded player. She defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues in the third round 7–6(3), 5–7, 7–6(1) in 3 hours and 27 minutes. She then defeated 2008 Australian Open women's doubles champion Alona Bondarenko in the quarterfinals 6–7(9), 6–3, 6–2 in 2 hours and 43 minutes. In the semifinals, Sharapova received a walkover to the final after her opponent, Lindsay Davenport, withdrew due to illness. Sharapova then defeated Dominika Cibulkova in her first career clay court final. Immediately after this win, her ranking rose to World No. 4.

Sharapova's next scheduled tournament is the Tier I Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina beginning April 14, 2008.