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In her career, Maria Sharapova has held the World No. 1 ranking on four separate occasions for a grand total of 17 weeks, never for longer than seven weeks at one time.
Since her professional debut on April 19, 2001, 13 women have held the number one ranking. Only two players of that elite group—Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams—have held the top spot for less time than Sharapova.
Even though Sharapova will always be regarded as a "former World No. 1," she doesn't deserve the title as much as a few others. Serena Williams and Justine Henin, for example, were able to not only become the world's top player, but remained atop the standings for sustained periods of time.
Further, we should recall that Sharapova took hold of the number one ranking for seven weeks two separate times in 2005 because Lindsay Davenport, who had held the top spot for 44 weeks, suffered an injury and could not defend enough points. Davenport quickly took back her ranking when she was fit to play.
In 2007 Sharapova ascended to the number one spot again, this time because Justine Henin had to withdraw from the Australian Open. Seven weeks later, a healthy Henin dethroned Sharapova.
Finally, in 2008, Sharapova claimed the number one ranking for the fourth time when Henin abruptly retired and requested that the WTA immediately remove her ranking. Three weeks later, Ana Ivanovic won the French Open and became the new World No. 1.
Sharapova is due credit for being the world's number two at all those times. However, the fact remains that all of her time as the top-ranked player occurred simply because of someone else's injury or retirement.