8 things about Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her women's singles match against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic during the 2016 Australian Open tennis tournament.
Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her women's singles match against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic during the 2016 Australian Open tennis tournament. PHOTO: AFP

Russian-born tennis star Maria Sharapova, 28, has revealed that she tested positive for a recently banned drug at the Australian Open, but claimed to have no knowledge the substance was prohibited.


Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova attending the Fed Cup dinner in Moscow, on Feb 4, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Here are eight things you may not know about one of the world's best women tennis players of all time:

1. First racket at four

It was the 1986 Chernobyl disaster than brought a young Sharapova and tennis together.

 

Her father Yuri Sharapova and then-pregnant mother Yelena left their hometown Gomel, which was just three hours from Chernobyl, so their newborn child would not be exposed to the radiation.

They eventually landed in Sochi where their young daughter, born on April 19, 1987, trained with some of Russia's best tennis coaches.

She was given her first racket at four years old.

2. Tough times in Florida

By the age of seven, her talent was obvious. Her father took her to Florida, seeking to be enrolled in the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, which has produced many top players.

Neither could speak English then, and he had to borrow money for their expenses. There, he initially worked low-wage jobs around the clock to save enough for her to enrol in the prestigious Rick Macci Tennis Academy.

Two years later, she was accepted into super-coach Nick Bollettieri's academy at age nine.

3. Five Grand Slam titles to her name


Maria Sharapova posing with the French Open trophy in 2014. PHOTO: MARIA SHARAPOVA/FACEBOOK

Sharapova shot to fame in 2004 when she beat defending champion Serena Williams to win her first Grand Slam title at age 17.

She was then the third-youngest woman to win the Wimbledon title.

She went on to win four more Grand Slam titles - at two French Opens in 2012 and 2014, the Australian Open in 2008, and the US Open in 2006.

4. Olympic medallist


Maria Sharapova poses with the silver medal she won at the 2012 London Olympics. PHOTO: MARIA SHARAPOVA/FACEBOOK

At her Olympic debut, at the 2012 London Olympics, she won a silver medal for Russia, losing to US player Serena Williams.

5. Grunt work


Maria Sharapova in action during the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore, on Oct 27, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

It's been said that Sharapova's grunts have been measured at more than 101 decibels - louder than a pneumatic drill.

Some fans love it, others find it unseemly, some of her opponents have complained about it, but it has become part of her signature style.

It certainly signals her resilience and ferocious need to win.

6. Endorsement queen


Maria Sharapova shows off her Wimbledon attire by Nike. PHOTO: MARIA SHARAPOVA/FACEBOOK

There's no doubt Sharapova is a tennis prodigy, but the statusque blonde's (she is 1.88m) popularity and ability to attract endorsements was way above all other competitors.

While she turned professional at age 14, she was already signed with marketing giant IMG and landed a clothing deal with Nike at age 11.

Since then, she has been endorsing prestigious global brands such as Tag Heuer, Porsche and Evian. 

But her image and popularity is in question in the wake of the doping fiasco. Hours after her announcement, Nike announced that it  would suspend its relationship with her while the investigation was ongoing. 

She has been the top sportswoman on Forbes' highest paid athlete list for the past decade, with endorsement earnings way above her salary and earnings from tennis. Still, with US$29.7m last year, she was only the 26th highest-paid athlete in 2015.

7. Business woman


Maria Sharapova takes a photograph with a fan during an autograph session at Robinsons The Heeren on Oct 15, 2014. She was in Singapore to launch her candy line, Sugarpova. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

She told BBC in 2013: "Business and sport are both very competitive worlds, and I want to be the best in both."

Besides her endorsement deals, she has designed her own line of apparel and accessories for both Nike and Cole Haan.

Her candy brand Sugarpova was officially launched in Singapore in 2014. The plan is to grow Sugarpova into a lifestyle brand which may also sell home goods, sleep and loungewear.

8. You may not know this...


Maria Sharapova at an auction to raise funds for Straits Times Pocket Money Fund at the Porsche showroom, on Oct 21, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

Her middle name is Yuryevna.