Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (born April 19, 1987) is a Russian professional tennis player. At the end of 2006, she was the world's highest-paid female athlete. Sharapova's parents moved from Homyel, Belarus, to Siberia, Russia, in 1986, after the Chernobyl nuclear accident. She was born the following year in Nyagan, Russia.
At seven, Sharapova was brought to the United States by her father, Yuri Sharapov, to attend the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Her mother, Yelena, who could not come with them because of visa restrictions, followed a few years later. Sharapova has lived in the United States since then but retains her Russian citizenship.
In 2002, Sharapova bought a beach home in Manhattan Beach, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, but lives most of the year near the IMG training facility in Bradenton.
Maria has been labeled as a power baseliner by tennis critics and fans. She is noted for having an excellent double-handed backhand and serves, particularly for the power and placement of these shots.
She is also noted for having a good forehand. Likewise, critics claim that for her height, Sharapova has decent agility on-court. Being an offensive player, Sharapova is usually able to overpower her opponents or keep them on the run with sharp angles from the baseline.
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.
Maria 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. She has never won a WTA tour singles title on that surface (yet).
In the year 2004, Maria donated $10,000 to victims of the tsunami disaster in Thailand. In January 2005 she donated proceeds of an auction for the Porsche car she won at the season-ending WTA Tour Championships of more than $50,000 to victims of the school siege in Beslan, Russia.
On February 14, 2007, Sharapova was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and donated US$100,000 to UNDP Chernobyl-recovery projects. She is planning on traveling back to the area after Wimbledon in 2008.