Some tennis stars stand out from the crowd because they are very talented and continue to win title after title, year after year. Maria Sharapova is one of these many talented players of tennis although she also has great looks to go with that mix of talents which makes her an even more popular player. After doing modeling for several magazines like Sports Illustrated and promoting a few different products she has made nearly as much money of the tennis court as she has on. Skills like this are often left for the young players who are fast and nimble however with Maria and her gracious looks her modeling career will not live forever.
Sharapova was born in 1987 to Yuri and Yelena, ethnic Belarusians, in the town of Nyagan’ in Siberia, Russia. Her parents moved from Gomel, Belarus after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 affected the region. Arriving in Florida with just $700 to his name, Sharapova’s father took various low-paying jobs, including dish-washing, to fund her lessons until she was old enough to be admitted to the academy. In 1995, she was signed by IMG, who agreed to pay the annual tuition fee of $35,000 for Sharapova to stay at the academy, allowing her to finally enroll at the age of 9.
Sharapova started the year at the Australian Open, where she defeated fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the second Grand Slam semifinal of her career. Sharapova held match points in the third set of her semifinal match before losing to eventual champion Serena Williams. In February, Sharapova won back-to-back tournaments, the Toray Pan Pacific Open and the Qatar Total Open, allowing her to reach the top three on the world rankings for the first time.
Despite her powerful game, Sharapova’s greatest asset is considered to be her mental toughness and competitive spirit, with Nick Bollettieri stating that she is “tough as nails”. At the 2010 French Open, Hall-of-famer Martina Navratilova said of Sharapova, “with her, it’s not over until she’s shaking hands.” Sharapova is known for on-court “grunting”, which reached a recorded 101 decibels during a match at Wimbledon in 2005. During her second round match in Birmingham in 2003, Sharapova was asked to tone down the level of her grunt after opponent Nathalie Dechy complained to the umpire, with Sharapova’s response saying that her grunting was “a natural instinct.”
Sharapova’s tennis success and appearance have enabled her to secure commercial endorsements that greatly exceed the value of her tournament winnings. In April 2005, People named her one of the 50 most beautiful celebrities in the world. In 2006, Maxim ranked Sharapova the hottest athlete in the world for the fourth consecutive year. She posed in a six-page bikini photoshoot spread in the 2006 Valentine’s Day issue of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, alongside 25 scantily-clad supermodels.
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. In January, 2010, she signed an eight-year Nike contract, worth $70 million. In August 2010, Maria Sharapova was once again named the world’s highest-paid female athlete by Forbes magazine, earning $24.5 million.