Overview of life
Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (Russian: Мари́я Ю́рьевна Шара́пова; IPA: [mɐˈrʲijə ˈjʉrʲjɪvnə ʂɐˈrapəvə] (About this sound listen); born April 19, 1987) is a Russian professional tennis player. A United States resident since 1994, Sharapova has competed on the WTA tour since 2001. She has been ranked world No. 1 in singles by the WTA on five separate occasions, for a total of 21 weeks. She is one of ten women, and the only Russian, to hold the career Grand Slam. She is also an Olympic medalist, having earned silver for Russia in women’s singles at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Sharapova became the world No. 1 for the first time on August 22, 2005, at the age of 18, and last held the ranking for the fifth time for four weeks from June 11, 2012, to July 8, 2012. Her 35 singles titles and five Grand Slam titles—two at the French Open and one each at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open—rank third among active players, behind Serena and Venus Williams. She won the year-ending WTA Finals in her debut in 2004. She has also won three doubles titles.
Despite an injury-prone career, Sharapova has achieved a rare level of longevity in the women’s game. She won at least one singles title a year from 2003 until 2015, a streak only bested by Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, and Chris Evert. Several tennis pundits and former players have called Sharapova one of tennis’s best competitors, with John McEnroe calling her one of the best the sport has ever seen.
Sharapova has been featured in a number of modeling assignments, including a feature in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She appeared in many advertisements, including those for Nike, Prince, and Canon, being the face of several fashion houses, most notably Cole Haan. Since February 2007, she has been a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, concerned specifically with the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme. In June 2011, she was named one of the “30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present and Future” by Time and in March 2012 was named one of the “100 Greatest of All Time” by Tennis Channel. According to Forbes, she has been named highest paid female athlete in the world for 11 consecutive years and earned US$285 million including prize money since she turned pro in 2001.
In March 2016, Sharapova revealed she had failed a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open on January 26, 2016. She had tested positive for meldonium, a substance that had been banned, effective January 1, 2016 by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). On June 8, 2016, she was suspended from playing tennis for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). On October 4, 2016, the suspension was reduced to 15 months, starting from the date of the failed test, as the Court of Arbitration for Sports found that she had committed “no significant fault” and that she had taken the substance “based on a doctor’s recommendation […] with good faith belief that it was appropriate and compliant with the relevant rules” . She returned to the WTA tour on April 26, 2017 at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Maria Sharapova was born on April 19, 1987, in Nyagan, Russian SFSR. Her parents, Yuri and Yelena, are from Gomel, Belarussian SSR. Concerned about the regional effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, they left their homeland shortly before Maria was born.
Introduction to tennis
In 1989, when Sharapova was two, the family moved to Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia. There her father Yuri befriended Aleksandr Kafelnikov, whose son Yevgeny would go on to win two Grand Slam singles titles and become Russia’s first world No. 1 ranked tennis player. Aleksandr gave Sharapova her first tennis racquet in 1991 when she was four, whereupon she began practicing regularly with her father at a local park. Maria took her first tennis lessons with veteran Russian coach Yuri Yutkin, who was instantly impressed when he saw her play, noting her “exceptional hand-eye coordination”.
Start of professional training
In 1993, at the age of six, Sharapova attended a tennis clinic in Moscow run by Martina Navratilova, who recommended professional training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, which had previously trained players such as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, and Anna Kournikova. With money tight, Yuri Sharapov borrowed the sum that would enable him and his daughter, neither of whom could speak English, to travel to the United States of America, which they finally did in 1994. Visa restrictions prevented Sharapova’s mother from joining them for two years. Arriving in Florida with savings of US$700, Sharapova’s father took various low-paying jobs, including dishwashing, to fund her lessons until she was old enough to be admitted to the academy. Before she entered the IMG business, she trained with Rick Macci, in the Rick Macci Tennis Academy. She then was offered a deal from IMG which forced her to change academies. Originally, she did train with Rick Macci, but after the deal with IMG, she could not see Rick Macci anymore. 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.
Junior and early career
Sharapova first hit the tennis scene in November 2000, when she won the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships in the girls’ 16 division at the age of just 13. She was then given a special distinction, the Rising Star Award, which is awarded only to players of exceptional promise. Sharapova made her professional debut in 2001 on her 14th birthday on April 19, and played her first WTA tournament at the Pacific Life Open in 2002, winning a match before losing to Monica Seles. Due to restrictions on how many professional events she could play, Sharapova went to hone her game in junior tournaments, where she reached the finals of the girls’ singles events at the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2002. She was the youngest girl ever to reach the final of the Australian Open junior championship at 14 years and 9 months.
Sharapova reached No. 6 in the ITF junior world singles ranking on October 21, 2002. In all, she won three junior singles tournaments and was runner-up at five, including two junior Grand Slam events. Her win-loss record in junior competition was 47–9.
Junior Grand Slam results:
Australian Open: F (2002)
French Open: 3R (2002)
Wimbledon: F (2002)
US Open: 2R (2001)
Junior Grand Slam tournament finals
Singles: 2 finals (2 runners-up)
|Runner-up||2002||Australian Open||Hard||Barbora Strýcová||0–6, 5–7|
|Runner-up||2002||Wimbledon||Grass||Vera Dushevina||6–4, 1–6, 2–6|
2003: First tournament titles
From 2003, Sharapova played a full season and made a rapid climb into the top 50 by the end of the year. She made her debuts at both the Australian Open and the French Open, but failed to win a match in either. Then, as a wildcard at Wimbledon, she defeated 11th seed Jelena Dokić, her first win over a top-20 player, to reach the fourth round, where she lost in three sets to Svetlana Kuznetsova. By the end of September, Sharapova had already captured her first WTA title at a smaller event, the Japan Open Tennis Championships, before winning her second in her final tournament of the season, the Bell Challenge. To cap off her first full season as a professional, she was awarded the WTA Newcomer of the Year honor.
2004: Wimbledon champion and rise to fame
Main article: 2004 Maria Sharapova tennis season
Sharapova was defeated in the third round of the Australian Open by sixth seed Anastasia Myskina. She later reached the semifinals at the Cellular South Cup, where she lost to eventual champion Vera Zvonareva.
During the spring clay-court season, Sharapova entered the top 20 on the WTA world rankings as a result of reaching the third round of the Qatar Telecom German Open and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, both of which were Tier I events. At the latter event, she defeated a player ranked in the top 10 for the first time with a straight-sets win over world No. 10 and 2004 French Open finalist Elena Dementieva. Later that clay-court season, she went on to make the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time at the French Open, losing there to Paola Suárez.
Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004
Sharapova won the third title of her career at the Wimbledon warm-up DFS Classic, defeating Tatiana Golovin in the final. Seeded 13th and aged 17 at Wimbledon, she reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by defeating Ai Sugiyama. There, she defeated fifth seed and former champion Lindsay Davenport. In the final, Sharapova upset top seed and defending champion Serena Williams to win her first Grand Slam singles title, and become the third-youngest woman to win the Wimbledon title, behind only Lottie Dod and Martina Hingis. Sharapova also became the second Russian woman (after Anastasia Myskina had won the year’s previous major at Roland Garros) to win a Grand Slam singles title. The victory was hailed by the media as “the most stunning upset in memory”, with other writers commenting on her arrival as a serious challenger to the Williams’ dominance at Wimbledon. She entered the top 10 in the rankings for the first time as a result of the win.
Following her Wimbledon win, attention and interest in Sharapova in the media greatly increased, a rise in popularity dubbed “Maria Mania.” She won three of six matches in her preparations for the US Open. At the US Open itself, she reached the third round, before being eliminated by Mary Pierce. In order to regain confidence, Sharapova played and won consecutive titles in Asia in the fall, the Hansol Korea Open Tennis Championships and the Japan Open Tennis Championships.
In October, Sharapova defeated Venus Williams en route to making the final of a Tier I event for the first time at the Zurich Open, losing in the final to Alicia Molik. She then made her debut at the year-ending WTA Tour Championships. There, she won two of her three round-robin matches (including a win over US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova) in order to advance to the semifinals, where she defeated Myskina. In the final, she defeated Serena Williams, after trailing 4–0 in the final set.
2005: Rise to world No. 1 ranking
Main article: 2005 Maria Sharapova tennis season
Sharapova started the year at the Australian Open, where she defeated fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the second Grand Slam semifinal of her career. Sharapova held match points in the third set of her semifinal match, before losing to eventual champion Serena Williams. In February, Sharapova won back-to-back tournaments, the Toray Pan Pacific Open and the Qatar Total Open, allowing her to reach number 3 in the world rankings for the first time.
In the semifinals of the Tier I Pacific Life Open, Sharapova was defeated by Lindsay Davenport, the first time she had failed to win a game in a match. She defeated former world No. 1 players Justine Henin and Venus Williams to reach the final at the Tier I NASDAQ-100 Open, where she lost to Kim Clijsters.
Sharapova made the semifinals of a clay-court tournament for the first time at the Italian Open, where she lost to Patty Schnyder. Sharapova would have become world No. 1 for the first time had she won the tournament. Sharapova then reached the quarterfinals of the French Open for the second consecutive year, before losing to eventual champion Henin. On grass, Sharapova won her third title of the year when she successfully defended her title at the DFS Classic, defeating Jelena Janković in the final. As the defending champion at Wimbledon, Sharapova reached the semifinals without dropping a set and losing a service game just once, extending her winning streak on grass to 24 matches. However, she was then beaten by eventual champion Venus Williams.
Sharapova had far fewer points to defend, and so she became the first Russian woman to hold the world No. 1 ranking on August 22, 2005. Her reign lasted only one week, however, as Davenport reclaimed the top ranking after winning the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament.
As the top seed at the US Open, Sharapova lost in the semifinals to Kim Clijsters, meaning she had lost to the eventual champion in every Grand Slam of the season. However, she once again leapfrogged Davenport to take the world No. 1 ranking on September 12, 2005. She retained it for six weeks, but after playing few tournaments while injured, she again relinquished the ranking to Davenport. To conclude the year, Sharapova failed to defend her title at the year-end Sony Ericsson Championships in Los Angeles, defeating Davenport in one of her round-robin matches, but ultimately losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Amélie Mauresmo.
2006: US Open champion
Main article: 2006 Maria Sharapova tennis season
Sharapova celebrating after winning the 2006 US Open
Sharapova started 2006 by losing in the semifinals of the Australian Open in three sets to Henin, also losing a rematch several weeks later at the Dubai Tennis Championships, having defeated former world No. 1 Martina Hingis and world No. 3 Lindsay Davenport in earlier rounds of the tournament. Sharapova claimed her first title in nine months at the Tier I tournament in Indian Wells, defeating Hingis in the semifinals and Elena Dementieva in the final. She reached the final in Miami before losing to Kuznetsova.
Sharapova returned for the French Open. There, after saving match points in defeating Mashona Washington in the first round, she was eliminated by Dinara Safina in the fourth round. On grass, Sharapova was unsuccessful in her attempt to win in Birmingham for the third consecutive year, losing in the semifinals to Jamea Jackson. Despite that, she was among the title favorites at Wimbledon, where the eventual champion Mauresmo ended up beating her in the semifinals.
Sharapova claimed her second title of the year at the Tier I Acura Classic, defeating Clijsters for the first time in the final. As the third seed at the US Open, Sharapova defeated top seed Mauresmo for the first time in the semifinals, and then followed up by beating second seed Justine Henin to win her second Grand Slam singles title.
That autumn, Sharapova won titles in back-to-back weeks at the Zurich Open and the Generali Ladies Linz. By winning all three of her round-robin matches at the WTA Tour Championships, she extended her win streak to 19 matches, before it was snapped in the semifinals by eventual champion Henin. Sharapova would have finished the season as world No. 1 had she won the event. As it was, she finished ranked world No. 2, her best year-end finish yet.
2007: Shoulder injury and fall from the top 5
Sharapova was the top seed at the Australian Open due to top-ranked Justine Henin’s withdrawal. After being two points away from defeat in the first round against Camille Pin, she went on to reach the final of the tournament for the first time, but was routed there by Serena Williams who was ranked world No. 81 at the time. After reaching the final, Sharapova recaptured the world No. 1 ranking. She held it for seven weeks, surrendering it back to Henin after failing to defend her title at the Pacific Life Open, instead losing in the fourth round to Vera Zvonareva after struggling with a hamstring injury. The following fortnight, she defeated Venus Williams in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open, before being beaten again by Serena Williams.
A shoulder injury forced Sharapova to miss most of the clay-court season for the second consecutive year, resulting in her only tune-up for the French Open being the İstanbul Cup, where she lost in the semifinals to Aravane Rezaï. She reached the semifinals of the French Open for the first time in her career, before losing to Ana Ivanovic. On grass, Sharapova was runner-up to Jelena Janković at the DFS Classic. Following that, she experienced her earliest Wimbledon loss since 2003 by losing in the fourth round to eventual champion Venus Williams.
Sharapova clinched the US Open Series by defending her title at the Acura Classic, her only championship of the year, and reaching the semifinals in Los Angeles. In her US Open title defense, Sharapova was upset in her third-round match to 30th seed Agnieszka Radwańska, making it her earliest exit at a Grand Slam singles tournament since the 2004 US Open, where she lost in the same round.
Following the US Open loss, Sharapova did not play again until the Kremlin Cup in October, where she lost her opening match to Victoria Azarenka. Shortly after this, she fell out of the top 5 in the world rankings for the first time since 2004. She qualified for the eight-woman year-end Sony Ericsson Championships because of a withdrawal by Venus Williams before the start of the tournament. Despite having not previously won a match in two months, Sharapova topped her round-robin group at the tournament, after winning all three of her matches, defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanovic, and Daniela Hantuchová. She then defeated Anna Chakvetadze in the semifinals. In the final, she lost to world No. 1 Henin in a match that lasted 3 hours and 24 minutes. Sharapova reached the top five again to end the year.
2008: Australian Open champion and second shoulder injury
Main article: 2008 Maria Sharapova tennis season
Sharapova was seeded fifth at the Australian Open, but was not considered a favorite. Nevertheless, she defeated former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport in the second round, and then world No. 1 Henin in the quarterfinals, ending the latter’s 32-match winning streak. She proceeded to the finals by defeating Jelena Janković in the semifinals, and defeated Ana Ivanovic in the final to win her third Grand Slam title, having not dropped a set all tournament.
After the Australian Open, Sharapova extended her winning streak to 18 matches. This run encompassed two wins including at the Tier I Qatar Total Open. Her winning streak was ended in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open by Kuznetsova. In April, Sharapova won the Bausch & Lomb Championships, having survived her longest-ever match, at 3 hours and 26 minutes long, in the third round against Anabel Medina Garrigues. The following week, at the Family Circle Cup, she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena Williams, her fourth consecutive loss to the American.
In May, Sharapova regained the world No. 1 ranking because of Henin’s sudden retirement from professional tennis and request to the WTA that her own ranking be removed immediately. As the top-seeded player at the French Open, Sharapova was within two points of being knocked out by Evgeniya Rodina in the first round, before eventually winning. As a result of losing to eventual finalist Dinara Safina in the fourth round (after serving for the match), she relinquished her No. 1 ranking. Her dip in form continued at Wimbledon, where she lost in the second round to world No. 154 Alla Kudryavtseva. This was her earliest loss at Wimbledon, and at any Grand Slam in almost five years.
Sharapova withdrew from the Rogers Cup tournament in August following a shoulder injury. An MRI scan revealed that she had been suffering from a rotator cuff tear since April, forcing her out of all tournaments for the rest of the season, including the Beijing Olympics, the US Open, and the WTA Tour Championships. In spite of that, she still finished the year ranked world No. 9. In October, after a failed attempt to rehabilitate the shoulder, Sharapova had surgery to repair the tear.
2009: Shoulder surgery and rehabilitation
Main article: 2009 Maria Sharapova tennis season
Sharapova did not attempt to defend her Australian Open title, as she continued to recover from surgery. She returned to the sport in March, in the doubles tournament at the BNP Paribas Open, but she and partner Elena Vesnina lost in the first round. After this, Sharapova withdrew from further singles tournaments, resulting in her standing in the world rankings being severely affected. She dropped out of the top 100 for the first time in six years in May, the nadir being world No. 126.
Sharapova made the quarterfinals of the French Open, her best Grand Slam performance of 2009
Playing her first singles tournament in nearly ten months, Sharapova made the quarterfinals of the clay-court Warsaw Open in May, losing to finalist Alona Bondarenko. The following week, in her first Grand Slam appearance since her surgery, she reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, before her run was ended by Dominika Cibulková.
During the summer grass-court season, Sharapova played in Birmingham, losing in the semifinals to Li Na. Sharapova then played at Wimbledon as the 24th seed. She was upset in the second round by Gisela Dulko in three sets.
Sharapova enjoyed considerable success in the summer months, reaching the quarterfinals at the Bank of the West Classic, the semifinals at the LA Women’s Tennis Championships, and finishing runner-up at the Rogers Cup to Elena Dementieva. At the 2009 US Open, Sharapova was seeded 29th. She found her way into the third round, defeating Tsvetana Pironkova and Christina McHale all in straight sets. She was stunned in the third round by American teenager Melanie Oudin. It was the second time in Sharapova’s career that she lost to a teenager at a Grand Slam, having lost to Agnieszka Radwańska during the same event in 2007. The loss made Sharapova’s ranking go down to No. 32.
The final stretch of the season brought Sharapova her first title of the year in Tokyo, after opponent Jelena Janković retired after being down 2–5 to Sharapova in the final. By virtue of that result, she was the recipient of a bye at the China Open, but failed to capitalize on it, losing to Peng Shuai in the third round. She ultimately finished the season at world No. 14, having improved from No. 126 when she started her comeback from injury.
2010: Comeback and struggles with form
Main article: 2010 Maria Sharapova tennis season
After playing two exhibition tournaments in Asia, Sharapova officially began her season at the Australian Open, where she was upset in her first-round match against Maria Kirilenko. The loss meant that for the first time since 2003, Sharapova had lost her opening match at a Grand Slam event. She then rebounded by winning a smaller American event, the Cellular South Cup, 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 as a wildcard, advancing to the final, where she beat Kristina Barrois. This was her first title on red clay and 22nd overall title. At the French Open, Sharapova’s brief clay season culminated with a third-round loss to four-time champion Justine Henin.
Sharapova began her preparations for Wimbledon at the Aegon Classic. She advanced to the final for the fourth time, where she lost to Li Na. As the 16th seed at Wimbledon, Sharapova lost in the fourth round 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 that she felt that she was “in a much better spot than I was last year.”
During the US Open Series, Sharapova made two straight finals, losing to Victoria Azarenka at the Bank of the West Classic, and to Kim Clijsters at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open. In the latter match, Sharapova held three match points while leading 5–3 on Clijsters’s serve late in the second set, but could not convert them. At the U.S. Open, Sharapova was the 14th seed. She made it to the fourth round, where she played top seed and 2009 finalist Caroline Wozniacki and lost.
Sharapova’s last two tournaments of the season ended 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 was the China Open, where she lost in the second round to fellow Russian Elena Vesnina. She ended the year at number 18 in the world.
2011: Return to the top 10
It was announced that Sharapova would bring in Thomas Högstedt as a coach for the 2011 season, joining Michael Joyce. On December 5, Sharapova won an exhibition match against world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva in Monterrey, Mexico. In Sharapova’s first official Australian Open warm-up tournament at the 2011 ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, she was seeded first. She lost to the Hungarian veteran and eventual champion Gréta Arn in the quarterfinals. After the ASB Classic, Sharapova decided to split up with Joyce, ending a successful cooperation that has brought her two Grand Slam victories and the World No. 1 ranking.
Sharapova participated in the first Grand Slam of the season at the Australian Open, where she was the 14th seed, but lost to Andrea Petkovic in the fourth round. She also had to pull out of the 2011 Dubai Tennis Championships and 2011 Qatar Ladies Open because of an ear infection. Sharapova returned to the tour in March by taking part in the 2011 BNP Paribas Open, where she was seeded 16th. She defeated former world No. 1 Dinara Safina, in the fourth round en route to the semifinal, where she lost to world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. At the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Sharapova defeated 26th seed Alexandra Dulgheru in the quarterfinals, in a match lasting 3 hours and 28 minutes. In the semifinals, Sharapova took her Australian Open reprisal on Germany’s Andrea Petkovic by defeating her. In the final, she was defeated by Victoria Azarenka, despite a late comeback in the second set. With this result, Sharapova returned to the top 10 for the first time since February 2009.
During the clay-court season, Sharapova participated in 2011 Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open, where she lost to Dominika Cibulková in the third round, and the 2011 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where she was seeded seventh. She defeated top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals and sixth seed Samantha Stosur in the final to take home the title, marking her biggest clay-court victory to date. At the 2011 French Open, Sharapova was seeded seventh. She defeated French wildcard Caroline Garcia in the second round, despite trailing 3–6, 1–4, before winning the last 11 games of the match. In the quarterfinals, she defeated 15th seed Andrea Petkovic, marking her first Grand Slam semifinal since her comeback from the career-threatening shoulder injury. She then lost to sixth seed and eventual champion Li Na, in the semifinals, ending her clay season with a win-loss record of 12–2.
At the 2011 Wimbledon Championships, Sharapova had not dropped a set entering the final, before losing to eighth seed Petra Kvitová in straight sets. This marked her first final in over three years at a Grand Slam event. Sharapova started her summer hard-court season at the 2011 Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California. In a highly anticipated match, Sharapova lost to the eventual champion Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. In her next event at the 2011 Rogers Cup in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Sharapova lost to Galina Voskoboeva in the third round, marking her 100th career loss.
Sharapova at the Western & Southern Open, August 2011
Sharapova then contested the 2011 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio. As the fourth seed, she received a bye into the second round. On the way to her fourth final of the year, she beat Anastasia Rodionova, 14th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, tenth seed Samantha Stosur, and 2nd seed Vera Zvonareva. In the final, she defeated fellow former world No. 1 Jelena Janković, in 2 hours and 49 minutes, making it the longest WTA tour final of the year. She subsequently moved up to world No. 4, her highest ranking since August 2008 and the highest since her comeback from her shoulder injury.
Sharapova entered the US Open, where she was seeded third. She beat Heather Watson, and Anastasiya Yakimova, to reach the third round. She was then upset by Flavia Pennetta. However, because of the fall of Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva in the rankings, Sharapova climbed to world No. 2. Sharapova’s next tournament was the 2011 Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan. As second seed, she received a bye into the second round, where she beat Tamarine Tanasugarn. She then beat 13th seed Julia Görges, before retiring against Petra Kvitová in the quarterfinal, 3–4, after slipping on the baseline, suffering an ankle injury. This also forced her to withdraw from the 2011 China Open the following week. Sharapova then flew to Istanbul to prepare for the 2011 WTA Tour Championships, her first time qualifying since 2007. During the WTA Tour Championships, Sharapova withdrew during the round-robin stage after defeats against Samantha Stosur and Li Na, as a result of the ankle injury she had suffered in Tokyo. Sharapova ended the year as No. 4 in the world, her first top-10 finish since 2008 and first top-5 finish since 2007.
2012: Career Grand Slam, return to world No. 1 and Olympic silver medal
Sharapova withdrew from the 2012 Brisbane International because of her ongoing ankle injury. Her first tournament of the season was the 2012 Australian Open, where she was seeded fourth. Sharapova advanced to the final round conceding five games, defeating Gisela Dulko, Jamie Hampton, and 30th seed Angelique Kerber, compatriot Ekaterina Makarova and world No. 2 Petra Kvitová. She lost to Victoria Azarenka in two sets. As a result, her ranking improved to world No. 3. She then played in the Paris, where she lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Angelique Kerber. As a result, her ranking improved to world No. 2.
Sharapova at the 2012 Summer Olympics, July 2012
At the Indian Wells, after battling for over three hours, Sharapova defeated compatriot Maria Kirilenko to set up a semifinal meeting with Ana Ivanovic. Sharapova advanced to the final after Ivanovic retired due to a hip injury. In the final, she played world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in a rematch of the Australian Open final, but lost again in straight sets. Sharapova’s next tournament was the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open, where she was seeded 2nd and received a bye. In the final, Sharapova lost in straight sets to 5th seeded Agnieszka Radwańska. This was her third loss of the year in finals out of four tournaments played so far. In the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Sharapova was seeded second. She had a bye in the first round, and advanced to the third round after Alizé Cornet retired in the second set. She won her first title of the year in Stuttgart after defeating world number one Victoria Azarenka. In doing so, Sharapova defeated three current Grand Slam title holders to win the tournament. Sharapova then played on the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open, a premier mandatory event. In the third round, Sharapova’s opponent Lucie Šafářová was unable to compete and withdrew from the tournament, earning Sharapova a walkover into the quarterfinals. She was then beaten by eventual champion Serena Williams in straight sets.
As the defending champion and second seed at the Italian Open, Sharapova had a bye in the first round. In the semifinals, Sharapova defeated Angelique Kerber to advance to the final for the second year in a row. In the final, Sharapova saved match point for a 2-hour 52-minute win over Li Na for her 26th career title. This marked the fourth time Sharapova had successfully defended a title.
Sharapova was seeded second at the French Open, where she defeated Alexandra Cadanțu, Petra Kvitová on her way to the finals, allowing her to regain the world No. 1 ranking. In the final, she defeated Sara Errani for her first French Open title. Sharapova became only the tenth woman to complete a Career Grand Slam with the French Open victory. During the tournament, Sharapova was also asked by the Russian Olympic Committee to carry the Russian flag in the Olympic Games, making her the first female flag bearer for Russia in Olympic history.
Sharapova then extended her win streak to 15 matches when she competed in the Wimbledon Championships as the top seed there for the first time in her career. However, she was upset in the fourth round by 15th-seeded Sabine Lisicki, whom she beat in the previous year’s semifinals. As a result, she lost her No. 1 ranking to Victoria Azarenka.
She played in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, her first Olympics. In the quarterfinals, Sharapova defeated fellow former No. 1 Kim Clijsters to advance to the semifinals, where she faced her compatriot, Maria Kirilenko. Sharapova defeated Kirilenko to reach the Olympic final, where she lost to Serena Williams, marking her worst defeat by the American. With this performance, Sharapova overtook Agnieszka Radwańska as world No. 2.
Sharapova was seeded third at the US Open, but had no hard-court tune-ups after the Olympics due to a stomach virus. In the fourth round, Nadia Petrova took it to a third set and was winning until a rain delay. After the delay, Sharapova came back to win. In the quarterfinals, she faced Marion Bartoli, who was 4–0 up before a rain delay, which delayed the match a whole day. Sharapova then came back from a set down to win. In the semifinals, Sharapova lost to world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.
Sharapova’s next tournament was the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. She made it to the quarterfinals, losing to Samantha Stosur. At the China Open she was seeded second. In the finals she was again defeated by Azarenka. Sharapova’s next tournament was the year-end championships in Istanbul, where she was seeded second. She defeated Sara Errani, Agnieszka Radwańska, and Samantha Stosur in the round-robin matches. In the semifinals, Sharapova beat Azarenka, bringing their head-to-head meetings to 7–5 in Azarenka’s favour. Although Sharapova made it to the final, Azarenka clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking with her two round-robin wins. She lost to Serena Williams for the 13th consecutive time in the final.
2013: Third shoulder injury
Sharapova’s first scheduled tournament of the 2013 season was the Brisbane International, where she was seeded second. However, she withdrew from the tournament before it began, citing a collarbone injury. She started her season at the Australian Open seeded second. She defeated Olga Puchkova and Misaki Doi in the first two rounds without losing a game in either match, the first time a player has won in back-to-back double bagels at a Grand Slam tournament since the 1985 Australian Open. Sharapova then defeated Venus Williams, Kirsten Flipkens, and Ekaterina Makarova, where in losing only nine games, she broke Monica Seles’ record of fewest games dropped heading into a Grand Slam semifinal. She lost to Li Na in the semifinals.
Sharapova at the French Open, May 2013
She reached the semifinals at the Qatar Total Open, losing to Serena Williams for the 10th straight time in her career. Her next tournament was Indian Wells, where she was seeded second. She received a bye into the second round and successfully reached the final without dropping a set, where she faced 2011 Indian wells champion and former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. After an hour and twenty-one minutes, Sharapova won the tournament. This was Maria’s 28th career title and second at Indian Wells. Her win also made her the No. 2 player in the world behind Serena Williams.
Maria then competed at the Sony Open. Once again she reached the final without dropping a set and faced world No. 1 Serena Williams. Maria started the match strong, winning the first set. However, Serena won the second and dominated the third set. This was Maria’s 11th consecutive loss against Serena.
Next, she played at the indoor clay event in Stuttgart, where she was the defending champion. Maria was top seed and had a bye in the first round. Her first three matches were long three-setters: she first beat world No. 25 Lucie Šafářová, dropping the second set on a tiebreak, then Ana Ivanovic, then in the semifinals, she won against third seed Angelique Kerber. In the final, in what was her ninth victory against the Chinese out of 14 matches, she beat second seed world No. 5 Li Na in straight sets to win her 29th career title.
A week later, she competed at the Madrid Open, reaching the final, again without dropping a set. She faced Serena Williams for the 15th time, losing for the 12th consecutive time in straight sets.
Next, she played in Rome, where she was seeded second and had a bye in the first round. She beat 16th seed Sloane Stephens in straight sets (with the loss of just three games) in the third round, but then did not play her quarterfinal match against seventh seed Sara Errani and retired from the tournament due to a viral illness.
At the 2013 French Open, Sharapova reached the final again, beating Azarenka in three sets in the semifinals, but there she lost in straight sets to Serena Williams. At Wimbledon she was comprehensively beaten in the second round by qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito. Sharapova then returned to the tour at the 2013 Western & Southern Open, where she lost her opening match to Sloane Stephens in three sets. A week later Sharapova withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing a shoulder injury, which prematurely ended her season.
2014: Comeback and second French Open title
Main article: 2014 Maria Sharapova tennis season
Sharapova had not played since August 2013 due to a recurring shoulder injury and made her comeback at the 2014 Brisbane International. Sharapova advanced to the semi-finals where she was beaten in straight sets by Serena Williams. At the 2014 Australian Open Sharapova, ranked 3rd, was knocked out of the tournament in the 4th round by the 20th seed, and eventual finalist, Dominika Cibulková. Sharapova lost the match in 3 sets. Sharapova then participated in GDF Suez where she was upset in the semifinals to fellow Russian and eventual tournament winner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets.
In March, playing in the Indian Wells Masters, she was beaten by 22-year-old Italian Camila Giorgi in the third round, in three sets. Therefore, due to the WTA ranking system, this would mean another drop in ranking, bringing her to world No. 7. In April, she won Stuttgart Open, her first title of the year and 30th of her career by defeating Ana Ivanovic in three sets. Stuttgart is the only tournament Sharapova has won three times. In May, Maria won the Madrid Open, her second title of the year and first in Madrid, defeating Simona Halep in three sets. With nine clay titles, she joins Venus Williams as the third most successful active player on the surface. Sharapova then competed in the Italian Open in Rome, where she made the third round. She lost to Ana Ivanovic in straight sets.
Sharapova was seeded 7th at 2014 French Open and defeated Ksenia Pervak, Tsvetana Pironkova, and Paula Ormaechea in the first 3 rounds, all in straight sets. In the fourth round she defeated Samantha Stosur, reeling off nine straight games from a set and 3–4 down. This marked her 14th win in 16 meetings with the Australian. In the quarters, she defeated Garbiñe Muguruza, again coming back from a set down, to reach the semifinals at the French for the fourth consecutive year. In the semi-finals, she defeated Eugenie Bouchard, once again coming back from a set down, to reach her third consecutive French Open final. In the final, she defeated Simona Halep in three sets to win her second French Open title and fifth overall Major title. This was the first time since 2001 where a third set was contested in the final. The match took just over three hours, and has been described as one of the best women’s finals in recent years. The 2014 Wimbledon Championships would be her next tournament, as Sharapova chose not to play a warm-up event before the third Grand Slam of the season gets underway. At the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, Sharapova reached the fourth round, where she lost to German Angelique Kerber, the ninth seed, in three sets.
Sharapova then played the 2014 Rogers Cup in Montreal where she was the 4th seed. She received a first round bye and faced Garbiñe Muguruza in her opener, she won in 3 sets. In the following round she lost in 3 sets to Muguruza’s compatriot, Carla Suárez Navarro. At the 2014 Western & Southern Open, Sharapova was seeded 5th and defeated Madison Keys after having a first round bye. She then went on to defeat Pavlyuchenkova and newly crowned world no.2 Simona Halep to reach the last four. She faced Ivanovic again but lost in a roller coaster three-setter despite having two match points. Sharapova then travelled to New York for the US Open where she was the 5th seed. She defeated compatriot Maria Kirilenko and Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru before overcoming 26th seeded German Sabine Lisicki in round 3 to set up a clash with Caroline Wozniacki in the round of 16. Sharapova lost to the Dane in 3 sets.
Sharapova next played the inaugural 2014 Wuhan open where she was seeded 4th. After receiving a first round bye, she defeated compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova in 3 sets and next faced Timea Bacsinszky. Although Sharapova won their 2 previous encounters, she was stunned by Timea in 2 tight sets, thus ending her campaign at the premier 5 tournament.
The following week, Sharapova played the China Open in Beijing, a Premier Mandatory-level tournament. Reaching the final without dropping a set, Sharapova defeated world No. 9 Ana Ivanovic in the semis. In the final, Sharapova met reigning Wimbledon champion and world No. 3 Petra Kvitová. Sharapova won the match in 2 hours 30 minutes, defeating the Czech in three sets. By virtue of the win, Sharapova’s ranking rose from No. 4 to No. 2 in the world and she secured herself the second seeding for the WTA year-end Championship. Also, Sharapova closed in on the year-end number-one ranking spot, being just 467 points behind Williams.
Maria was ranked No. 2 heading into the WTA Tour Championships, with a chance of overtaking Serena Williams as world No. 1. She was drawn in the white group, with Petra Kvitová, Agnieszka Radwańska and Caroline Wozniacki. Her first match was a three set loss to Wozniacki. Maria also lost her 2nd round robin match to Kvitová in straight sets; her first loss to Petra since 2011. Maria still had a chance of making the Semis, but she needed to beat Radwańska in two sets, and Wozniacki needed to beat Petra in straight sets as well. She ended her year with a win against Radwańska in three sets, finishing 3rd overall in the White group. She ended the year as world No. 2, behind Serena Williams.
2015: Fourth Australian Open final
Sharapova kicked off her 2015 season at the Brisbane International where she was top seed and received a bye in the first round. Sharapova defeated Yaroslava Shvedova and Carla Suárez Navarro. In the semi finals, Sharapova faced Elina Svitolina, beating her in straight sets. Reaching the final without dropping a set, Sharapova played an intense match against second seed Ana Ivanovic but came through in three sets. This was Sharapova’s 10th win over Ivanovic and by winning her 34th title, it meant that Sharapova has won at least one title every year for 13 consecutive years. Also, it was just her second title in Australia so far, and for both she beat Ivanovic. Sharapova’s next tournament was the 2015 Australian Open, where she beat Petra Martić and fellow countrywoman Alexandra Panova (despite having two match points against her) in the first two rounds, before beating Zarina Diyas and Peng Shuai in straight sets. There, she beat seventh-seeded Eugenie Bouchard and fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets to make her fourth Australian Open final, where she lost to Serena Williams in straight sets, worsening her record against her to 2–17. In February, following her participation in the Fed Cup, Sharapova played in Acapulco, where she beat Shelby Rogers, Mariana Duque Mariño and Magdaléna Rybáriková to advance the semifinals. Sharapova later withdrew from her match against Caroline Garcia, citing a stomach virus. Next, in Indian Wells, she beat Yanina Wickmayer and Victoria Azarenka in straight sets, before losing to defending champion Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round in three sets. After receiving a bye in the first round of the Miami Open, Sharapova lost in the second round to fellow Russian Daria Gavrilova in straight sets, marking her earliest exit from the tournament since her first appearance in Miami in 2003.
Sharapova began her clay season in Stuttgart where she was the three-time defending champion. After receiving a first-round bye, she lost in the second round to Angelique Kerber in three sets, snapping Sharapova’s win streak at the tournament and marking her first-ever loss at the tournament, having won it three times in a row (2012, 2013, & 2014). The loss also snapped a 64 match win streak on clay where Sharapova won the first set and went on to win the match. The last time Sharapova lost a match on clay after winning the first set was against Dinara Safina in the fourth round at the 2008 French Open. As a result of the loss Sharapova lost the No. 2 ranking to Simona Halep. Sharapova’s next clay court tournament was the Madrid Open where she was the defending champion. She advanced to the semifinals. There, she was beaten by Svetlana Kuznetsova for the first time since 2008. Sharapova’s next tournament was the Italian Open in Rome where she was seeded 3rd. She beat Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals in straight sets to set up a re-match with Daria Gavrilova. She beat Gavrilova in straight sets to advance to the final, where she faced Carla Suárez Navarro. After losing the first set, Sharapova managed to claim the next two sets and her third Rome title. By winning Rome, Sharapova reclaimed the No. 2 ranking over Halep, until August 24, when Halep went again to World No.2, due to Sharapova’s not playing any match after Wimbledon (where she reached the semifinals but lost to Serena), including US Open, due to injuries.
She then received a wildcard into Wuhan Open and received a bye into the 2nd round. However, she retired in her match against Barbora Strýcová in the 3rd set, citing a left forearm injury. She then withdrew from the China Open, where she was the defending champion, to recover in time for the WTA Finals and the Fed Cup final.
At the WTA Finals, she was drawn into the red group, alongside Halep, Radwańska and Pennetta. She then won all three of her round-robin matches, and achieved 1st position in her group. She then played the player who finished 2nd in the White Group, Petra Kvitová. She lost the match in straight sets, despite having a 5–1 lead in the second set.
Sharapova then played in the Fed Cup final, winning both of her matches, against Karolína Plíšková and got revenge against Petra Kvitová for her loss in the WTA Finals.
Sharapova ended the season as World No.4, despite not playing the US Open Series and missing most of the Fall Asian Hardcourt season. She had a win-loss record of 39–9 and won 2 titles.
2016: More injuries and suspension
Sharapova began her 2016 season at the Brisbane International where she was the defending champion. She would have faced Ekaterina Makarova in the 1st round, but withdrew hours before the match, citing a left forearm injury, and was replaced by Margarita Gasparyan.
Due to Agnieszka Radwańska winning the Shenzhen Open, Sharapova was seeded fifth at the Australian Open. She was drawn to face Nao Hibino in the first round and won in straight sets. She then won her second round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, also in straight sets. Sharapova then lost her first set in the tournament as she defeated Lauren Davis in three sets. In the fourth round, she then played her first career match against Belinda Bencic and won in two tight sets over two hours of play. Sharapova then faced her long-time rival Serena Williams in the quarterfinal, a repeat of the previous year’s final. Although she started the match brightly, she was defeated in straight sets. She failed to defend her finalist points from the previous year, and fell to sixth in the rankings after the tournament.
After the Australian Open, Sharapova was nominated by team captain Anastasia Myskina to play the Fed Cup, but she had a forearm injury and was only listed for the doubles match. Russia lost the first three matches and chose Makarova to replace Sharapova for the dead doubles match. In the end, Russia lost 3–1 but by being nominated for the match, Sharapova successfully qualified for the Summer Olympics having played sufficient Fed Cup matches to meet the criteria.
Citing the left forearm injury sustained at the start of the year, Sharapova withdrew from the Qatar Open, and a week before the BNP Paribas Open, she withdrew from that for the same reason.
Following her positive drug test, Sharapova was provisionally suspended from competitive tennis with effect from March 12. On June 8 she was banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation. Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has implied that Sharapova was targeted due to the political crisis in Russian-American relations. In October 2016, Sharapova’s ban was reduced from 24 months (2 years) to 15 months, starting from January 26, 2016, the date of the drug test she had failed.
2017: Return from suspension
Sharapova returned to the WTA tour in April 2017. She was given wild cards to compete in the following three WTA tournaments: Women’s Stuttgart Open, Madrid Open and Italian Open. She played her first match of her comeback on April 26 at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, a tournament that she had previously won on three occasions. Her first round opponent was Italian Roberta Vinci, who she went on to defeat in straight sets to advance to the second round, making it her first victory since her return. In her on-court interview Sharapova said, “The first few seconds before you enter the arena – it’s been a stage of mine since I was a young girl – I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.” She followed it up with another straight sets victory over countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. In the quarterfinals, she defeated qualifier Anett Kontaveit in straight sets, before losing to Kristina Mladenovic in the semifinals.
WADA substance controversy
Wikinews has related news: International Tennis Federation bans Sharapova for two years after positive drug test
On March 7, 2016, Sharapova revealed that she had failed a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open, which she described as the result of an oversight. Sharapova admitted to testing positive for meldonium, an anti-ischemic drug usually prescribed for heart conditions, that was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s banned substances list on January 1, 2016. Sharapova was provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) from playing tennis with effect from March 12, 2016. She later released a statement regarding the test and explaining her use of the medicine:
“I received a letter from the ITF that I failed a drugs test at the Australian Open. I take full responsibility for it. For the past ten years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name of meldonium which I did not know. It is very important for you to understand that for ten years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had legally been taking the medicine for the past ten years. But on January 1st the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance which I had not known. I was given this medicine by my doctor for several health issues that I was having in 2006”.
Meldonium is not approved for use in the United States, Sharapova’s country of residence; however, it is legal to use in Russia, the country that Sharapova represents in tennis. The drug’s inventor Ivars Kalviņš said that he didn’t think taking it should be construed as “doping”, but he also said that it “is very popular among athletes” and was used by the Soviet military for “optimizing the use of oxygen” and that it “allows athletes to train under maximum strain”. Don Catlin, a long-time anti-doping expert and the scientific director of the Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG) stated that “There’s really no evidence that there’s any performance enhancement from meldonium – Zero percent.” [not in citation given]
Sharapova said that she had been taking the drug to treat magnesium deficiency, an irregular EKG and family history of diabetes, and indicated that she had not read an email informing her that meldonium had been banned for use in sport. Mildronate’s addition was outlined on a WADA and United States Anti-Doping Agency summary document and it has been reported that all tennis players were warned five times that it was due to be banned. On March 11, 2016, Sharapova denied reports about the five missed warnings via Facebook:
“That’s a distortion of the actual “communications” which were provided or simply posted onto a webpage. I make no excuses for not knowing about the ban. The other “communications”? They were buried in newsletters, websites, or handouts (many of them technical, in small print). I didn’t take the medicine every day. I took it the way my doctor recommended I take it and I took it in the low doses recommended. I’m proud of how I have played the game. I have been honest and upfront. I won’t pretend to be injured so I can hide the truth about my testing.
Most fellow tennis players reacted negatively to her announcement, with almost no support or sympathy in general for Sharapova. John McEnroe and Pat Cash said they found it hard to believe her. Jennifer Capriati posted on Twitter that she should be stripped of her 35 professional titles. Chris Evert expressed her surprise at the lack of support in tennis for Sharapova, noting that she “[had] always isolated herself from the rest of the tennis world, from the players”. Serena Williams expressed surprise at Sharapova’s announcement and asked tennis officials not to extend any special treatment towards her. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray all publicly condemned Sharapova and argued that she deserved to be punished on the basis that she failed the doping test, with Murray adding that “Taking a drug you don’t necessarily need because it’s legal is wrong” and Federer stating that “Whether it’s intentional or not, I don’t see too much difference. You must be 100 percent about what you are taking”. Sharapova’s case prompted Federer to urge the tennis federation to conduct more anti-doping tests. Novak Djokovic said that he felt sorry for her, but that she must still be ready for punishment. Victoria Azarenka and Dominika Cibulkova were far less supportive, with Cibulkova adding that she didn’t feel sorry at all for Sharapova and didn’t miss having her on the tour, describing her as “a totally unlikeable person; arrogant, conceited, and cold”. The Russian Tennis Federation strongly defended Sharapova, describing the positive drug test as “nonsense” and adding that they expected Sharapova to be available for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Following the announcement, as a result of the failed drug test personal sponsors Nike and TAG Heuer suspended their relationships with Sharapova, while Porsche postponed promotional work. Racquet manufacturer HEAD stood by Sharapova, saying, “We look forward to working with her”, and announced that they intended to extend their contract. They also suggested that WADA should prove scientifically why the drug should be banned. The United Nations Development Programme suspended Sharapova from her role as a goodwill ambassador on March 16, while expressing thanks for her support of their work over the previous nine years.
On April 12, WADA intimated that athletes who tested positive for meldonium before March 1 could avoid bans, but the International Tennis Federation said that Sharapova’s case would proceed. On June 8, the ITF announced that Sharapova would be suspended for two years. Sharapova indicated she would appeal the ban.
Following a hearing on 7 and 8 September 2016, the CAS panel found that Sharapova had a reduced perception of the risk that she took while using Mildronate, because (a) she had used Mildronate for around ten years without any anti-doping issue, (b) she had consulted the Russian doctor who prescribed the Mildronate for medical reasons, not to enhance her performance, and (c) she had received no specific warning about the change in status of meldonium from WADA, the ITF, or the WTA. However, the CAS panel also noted Sharapova’s failure to disclose her use of meldonium on her doping control forms and that she was at fault for (a) failing to give her agent adequate instructions as to how to carry out the important task of checking the Prohibited List, and (b) failing to supervise and control the actions of her agent in carrying out that task (specifically the lack of any procedure for reporting or follow-up verification to make sure that her agent had actually discharged his duty).
On October 4, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced the sanction imposed on Sharapova by an Independent Tribunal from 24 months to 15 months. CAS has released a statement on its official website stating:
“Ms. Sharapova committed an anti-doping rule violation and that while it was with “no significant fault”, she bore some degree of fault, for which a sanction of 15 months is appropriate”
Sharapova is an aggressive baseliner with power, depth, and angles on her forehand and backhand. She is one of the few players on the WTA tour who often use the reverse forehand. Instead of using a traditional volley or overhead smash, she prefers to hit a powerful “swinging” volley when approaching the net or attacking lobs. Sharapova is thought to have good speed around the court, especially considering her height. At the beginning of 2008, some observers noted that Sharapova had developed her game, showing improved movement and footwork and the addition of a drop shot and sliced backhand to her repertoire of shots. Despite her powerful game, Sharapova’s greatest asset is considered to be her mental toughness and competitive spirit, with Nick Bollettieri stating that she is “tough as nails”. Hall-of-famer John McEnroe said of Sharapova, “she’s one of the best competitors in the history of the sport.”
Sharapova is known for on-court “grunting”, which reached a recorded 101 decibels during a match at Wimbledon in 2005. During her second round match in Birmingham in 2003, Sharapova was asked to tone down the level of her grunt after opponent Nathalie Dechy complained to the umpire, with Sharapova’s response saying that her grunting was “a natural instinct.” Monica Seles suggested that grunting is involuntary and a part of tennis. When questioned by the media about her grunting, Sharapova urged the media to “just watch the match.” Her defensive game has been worked on by her new coach, and this has reflected in her results, making consecutive semi-finals at premier mandatory events on the tour. Later in her career, Sharapova also added drop shots to her repertoire, making for a more unpredictable game style.
Sharapova at The Championships, Wimbledon in 2009.
Early in her career, Sharapova’s first and second serves were regarded as powerful, and she was believed to possess one of the best deliveries on the Tour. Since the beginning of 2007, however, problems with her shoulder have reduced the effectiveness of her serve. The shoulder injury resulted in not only her inconsistent first serves, but also her hitting high numbers of double faults. Two-time US Open singles champion Tracy Austin believes that Sharapova often loses confidence in the rest of her game when she experiences problems with her serve and consequently produces more unforced errors and generally plays more tentatively, while tennis writer Joel Drucker remarked that her serve was the “catalyst for her entire game”, and that her struggles with it left her “unmasked.”
In her return from layoff in 2008 to 2009, she used an abbreviated motion, which was somewhat less powerful, and though producing aces, also gave a very high number of double faults. After her early loss at the 2009 US Open, Sharapova returned to a more elongated motion, similar to her pre-surgery serve. She has since been able to produce speeds greater than before, including a 121-mph serve hit at the Birmingham tournament in 2010 – the fastest serve of her career.
However, since her shoulder operation Sharapova has been unable to control her serve. This has led to numerous faults, as she is unable to feel how much power she is generating. The new action led to an elbow injury, but under Thomas Högstedt it has improved but can still be erratic. This improvement in serving can be seen in the 2013 Australian Open and following tournaments where Maria Sharapova committed fewer double faults than in previous years.
Because she predicates her game on power, Sharapova’s preferred surfaces early in her career were the fast-playing hard and grass courts, as evident through her 25 victories on hard court and grass court. This was most notable when she won the 2004 Wimbledon, 2006 U.S. Open and 2008 Australian Open crowns, where she had her career breakthrough and played her peak tennis level, respectively.
Sharapova initially was not as well-suited to the slower clay courts as she is on hard and grass courts. Sharapova admitted in 2007 that she was not as comfortable with her movement on clay compared with other court surfaces and once described herself as like a “cow on ice” after a match on clay, due to her inability to slide. Later in her career, she showed improvement on this surface with respect to experience, as evidenced with her first WTA red-clay title at the 2010 Internationaux de Strasbourg, 7 years since playing on the WTA circuit. She won her first French Open title and captured the career grand slam at the 2012 French Open and as of 2014, led the WTA tour of active players with the highest winning percentage on clay, with an 84.25% winning rate. Since her shoulder injury, her best surface has become clay over grass & hard courts, and with her victory at the 2014 French Open, she has now won the French Open twice, which is more times than she has won any other slam, and her last 3 Grand Slam Finals have all been at the French Open (3 consecutive finals from 2012–2014).
- Russian Cup Newcomer of the Year
- Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Newcomer of the Year
- WTA Player of the Year
- WTA Most Improved Player of the Year
- ESPY Best Female Tennis Player
- Prix de Citron Roland Garros
- Russian Cup Female Tennis Player of the Year
- Russian Cup Female Tennis Player of the Year
- Whirlpool 6th Sense Player of the Year
- ESPY Best Female Tennis Player
- ESPY Best International Female Athlete
- ESPY Best Female Tennis Player
- Russian Cup Team of the Year (as part of the Fed Cup team)
- WTA Fan Favorite Singles Player
- WTA Humanitarian of the Year
- WTA Most Fashionable Player (On Court)
- WTA Most Fashionable Player (Off Court)
- WTA Most Dramatic Expression
- ESPY Best Female Tennis Player
- Medal of the Order For Merit to the Fatherland 2nd Class (April 28, 2012) – for her philanthropic activity
- Medal of the Order For Merit to the Fatherland 1st Class (August 13, 2012) – for her outstanding contribution to the development of physical cultures and sports at the XXX Olympic Games in 2012 in London (Great Britain)
- Russian Cup Female Tennis Player of the Year
- Order For Merit to the Fatherland (February 5, 2016)