Maria Sharapova Rags to Riches: The Story of a Superstar

James PerkinsContributor IJune 13, 2008

When Maria Sharapova turned professional on her 14th birthday, few would have guessed that a tennis superstar had been unleashed.  Just three years on, and she had won the coveted Wimbledon title.Many are skeptical that it may all be too much too soon for the Russian teenager, but having gone down fighting every point like it was her last at last months French Open, it would seem Sharapova is here for the long haul.  

Her recent climb to the summit of the world rankings has come as no surprise to those who watched in awe as the virtually unknown Sharapova clinched the Wimbledon title four years ago.Her incredibly victory over Serena Williams was the start of a new era for woman’s tennis.

Not only did she instantly book her place in history as the third youngest Wimbledon ladies champion of all time, but she changed the face of the game. Now one of the most marketable and recognized faces in sport, Sharapova endorses products for big name companies such as Motorola, Canon, TAG Heuer & Colgate-Palmolive amongst others.  

She has recently created her own perfume, and it seems as though there is little Sharapova can do wrong.  She is a shining example of a professional athlete and a great role model to thousand of aspiring tennis players.  The first Russian to be world No. 1, Sharapova has inspired a generation of youngsters.

Admittedly, she is not the complete player and still has a long way to go to achieve her undoubted potential.  With the coaching of Robert Lansdorp, the man responsible for nurturing Pete Sampras and the management of her doting father, it is unimaginable that someone so genuinely gifted will not leave a lasting legacy on the game she was born to play. 

Former stars have come out in their droves to lavish praise on the new superstar of the WTA tour.  Attendances are on the up, media interest in the once boring and undesirable, and ‘second rate’ ladies tennis is lively once more.   

Yet beneath Maria Sharapovas precocious rise to fame lays a darker more disturbing story.  Born in Nyagan, in the Siberian region of Russia, Maria first picked up a racket at the tender age of four.  Incredibly only a year later, she was spotted by tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who advised Maria’s parents to send her to the Nick Bollettieri tennis academy in the United States. In 1995 Maria, accompanied by her parents, embraced upon her American dream.  She instantly won a place at the academy astounding her coaches with such natural ability, inexhaustible energy, and raw talent, which many of them had never witnessed before in their lives.  Yet success was to come at a price for Maria, who did not see her mother for two years as a result of visa restrictions and the family’s restrictive financial situation.  

Some 20,000 miles away from her mother and her homeland a nine-year-old Maria Sharapova had embarked upon her rapid rise to stardom.  The pain and heartache she suffered through this unsettling period are not reflected in the girl we see walking out onto court today. She is confident, composed, and entirely focused on her opponent.  Winning is her passion, and she is relentless in her approach to it.  Her experiences in America have made her stronger as a person, not just as an athlete.   

She puts much of her phenomenal success down to her parents influence and is forever indebted to them for the sacrifices they made.  Her family is her core, she is not some wild party animal merely entertaining tennis to fuel her erratic lifestyle like so many fellow ‘prodigies’ who have fallen from stardom.  When Sharapova first burst onto the scene in 2002, comparisons were instantly drawn with Anna Kournikova, the Russian beauty who retired at just 24. But those comparisons were ill-advised, while Kournikova fell by the way side and pursued a career in modeling Sharapova emerged as Wimbledon champion. 

She has revolutionized the way the ladies game is looked upon; her intrepid, hard-hitting and at times un-returnable power has guided her to 19 WTA titles in a breathtaking career which is surely set to hit great heights.  Her insatiable desire for winning, her limitless talent and her infatuation with tennis make her one of the most exciting talents to embrace the game in recent times. 

Her winning mentality is faultless, her weaknesses unapparent, and her approach fearles.  In Maria Sharapova, tennis has found a new superstar.


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