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
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
Sharapova reached the final of the JB Group Classic, an exhibition tournament in Hong Kong, where she was defeated by Kim Clijsters 63, 76(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 63, 46, 97 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 61, 62 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 46, 75, 61 after Sharapova lead 54 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 61, 61. In the third round of that tournament, Sharapova had beaten Venus Williams 26, 62, 75.
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 62, 64. 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 62, 61.On grass at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, United Kingdom, Sharapova lost in the final to second seeded Jelena Jankovic 46, 63, 75. At Wimbledon, Sharapova lost to Venus Williams in the fourth round 61, 63.
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 62, 36, 60, 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 64, 16, 62, 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.