Maria Yuryevna Sharapova (Russian: Maria_sharapova.ogg Мари́я Ю́рьевна Шара́пова , Mariya Yur’evna Shara'pova [pronounced Sha-RA-po-va]; born 19 April 1987) is a former World No. 1 Russian professional tennis player and three time Grand Slam singles champion. As of October 05, 2009, she is ranked World No. 15.
When Sharapova was seven, she and her father moved from their life of poverty in Russia to the United States, to enroll in the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. After rising rapidly through the junior and professional ranks in the years that followed, Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17. In the two years that followed, Sharapova won eight titles on the WTA Tour and had two brief stints as the World No. 1. However, she lost all five Grand Slam semifinals she played during this period. She ultimately won her second Grand Slam title at the 2006 US Open.
In 2007, a right shoulder injury forced Sharapova to withdraw from numerous tournaments; this was partially responsible for her dropping out of the top five on the WTA world rankings for the first time in three years. Although she won her third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in early 2008 and returned to the World No. 1 position later in the year, her shoulder needed surgery in October 2008. Sharapova was away from the sport for ten months until May 2009, which caused her ranking to drop out of the top 100. Since returning, Sharapova's ranking has recovered to within the top 15.
Sharapova's public profile extends beyond tennis. She has been featured in a number of modeling assignments, including a feature in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Sharapova was the most searched-for athlete on Yahoo! in both 2005 and 2008. In July 2008, as a result of her success both on and off court, she was the world's highest-paid female athlete, earning US$26 million. Since February 2007, she has been a United Nations Development Project Goodwill Ambassador, concerned specifically with efforts in Chernobyl to recover from the 1986 nuclear disaster.