Maria Sharapova Biography
Full name: Maria Yuryevna Sharapova
Birthdate: April 19, 1987
Birthplace: Nyagan, Russia
Residence: Bradenton, Florida
Occupation: Tennis player, Athlete
Boyfriends: Adam Levine, Sasha Vujacic
Zodiac sign: Aries
Maria Sharapova Early Life
Maria was born on April 19, 1987, to Yuri and Yelena Sharapova. Her family lived in Siberia, a large region within Russia. Yuri was a construction worker. Yelena stayed home to raise Maria, their only child. Yuri became friends with the father of Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a Russian professional tennis player. In 1991, Kafelnikov’s father gave Maria a tennis racket as a gift. She practiced hitting tennis balls against the side of her house.
In 1993, when Maria was six, her father took her to a children’s tennis clinic in Moscow, the Russian capital. Martina Navratilova, a great female tennis player, was there. She saw Maria hitting balls. “She has talent,” Navratilova told Maria’s father. Yuri decided to get expert coaching for Maria.
In 1995, he packed up a few belongings and flew with Maria to the United States. In Bradenton, Florida, he took her to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. The school was famous for training many stars, including Andre Agassi and Monica Seles.
Eventually, though, Maria got into the academy. Yuri had to work several jobs to pay for her tuition. Maria lived in a dormitory with older girls. Yuri moved into an apartment one mile away. The family couldn’t afford to buy a car. So Yuri walked to work and to see Maria every day. Maria’s mother stayed in Russia until she could get the paperwork that let her come to America. Maria went to school at the academy.
She spoke a little English. Her speech was awkward. The other students teased her. She was especially lonely at the dormitory. “I had only myself as a company,” she said. Maria worked hard at tennis. She was tall for her age. So she struggled to keep her balance and smooth movement on the court. The other girls bullied her.
“It just made me tougher,” she said. Maria’s agent, Max Eisenbud, remembers how hard it was for Maria and her father. “Yuri calls it survival,” Eisenbud said. “It was two very tough years. They don’t forget what it was like.”
Over time, Maria blossomed as a tennis player. In 1996, when she was nine years old, the academy began paying her tuition. She started competing in junior tennis events. In 1997, Maria played in the Eddie Herr International Junior Championships for kids fourteen and under.
She beat a strong player named Bernice Burlet, 6-3, 6-4. Maria was only ten years old! A year later, she joined the International Management Group (IMG). IMG would represent her in any tennis deals. In exchange, Maria got free shoes and tennis rackets.
At the same time, Maria started traveling to Southern California for lessons from famed coach Robert Lansdorp. “I would get bored later hitting four balls in a row in one corner, and he made me hit 100,” said Maria. “He taught me patience and consistency and drive.”
Maria Sharapova is tall, strong, and fearless. She uses her body like a whip to send tennis balls screaming across the net. She attacks at all times. When she falls behind in a match, she seems to hit the ball even harder.
Sharapova uses her long legs to reach shots that other players must lunge for. An opponent who lets up even for instant risks losing to Sharapova. She can quickly change a close match into an easy victory. This makes her a favorite of young tennis fans all over the world.
Service With a Smile
Despite being a fierce player, Sharapova has a friendly, easygoing nature. She has a wonderful smile that can light up a tennis stadium. When she steps up to the baseline, the smile leaves her face. She is all business. Her greatest weapon is her serve.
Sharapova wins many of her service games without losing a single point. Her serve has been clocked at more than 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour). “Maria has this ability to just raise the level of her game,” says fellow Russian tennis player Nadia Petrova. “She can just defy everything she wants to win so bad.”
Sharapova is known for grunting loudly when she hits the ball. Scientific tests have shown that tennis players hit the ball harder when they exhale—and even harder when they grunt.
How loud is Sharapova? Players used to make the same complaint about Monica Seles, who dominated women’s tennis during the early 1990s. Her grunt was once measured at 93 decibels. Decibels measure the power of a sound. Sharapova’s grunt comes in at around 100 decibels. From a distance, a jet plane takeoff is 125 decibels.
From Russia With Love
Sharapova now lives in the United States. But she was born in what is now Russia and considers herself Russian. Since 2000, Russia has produced some of the best women’s tennis players.
They have shined in world competitions like the Olympics and Federation Cup. Russia’s first true women’s tennis star was Olga Morozova. In 1974,13 years before Sharapova was born, Morozova reached the finals of both the French Open and Wimbledon.
Picking Up Skills
Maria’s parents believed that Yudkin was right. Maria was already well known among Sochi’s tennis community. People often came to the park to watch her play. Unfortunately, it was very expensive to move from Russia to the United States. Money was scarce for Maria’s family. But Yuri was determined to find a way to get Maria to the United States.
Maria’s tennis skills continued to progress rapidly. In 1993, Yuri took his daughter to Moscow to participate in a tennis clinic. Maria would later write in her autobiography, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, that she barely remembers hitting at the clinic. But she made a strong impression on Martina Navratilova, a legendary tennis star who saw her play. Navratilova was so impressed by Maria’s skills that she encouraged her parents to take her to the United States for training.