Age is not a factor. That's what the Russian tennis player, Maria Sharapova, proved to the world when she became the third youngest Wimbledon women's champion in 2004 and World No.1 in 2005 - amazing feat she has accomplished in a short span of time since her debut at the major tennis league. "A great tennis career is something that a 15-year-old normally doesn't have. I hope my example helps other teens believe they can accomplish things they never thought possible."
The beautiful Sharapova, now 20, has become a hot celebrity figure in and out the court. She is currently the fourth-ranked female player in the world and top endorser of Nike accessories, apparel, and footwear. In addition, she was listed as the world's highest-paid female athlete at the end of 2006.
Born in Nyagan, Russia, the 7-year old Maria Sharapova was brought by her father Yuri to the United States to attend Nick Bollettiere Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. It has taken a few years for her mother Yelena to follow them because of visa restrictions. Though living in the United States, they still retain their Russian citizenship.
In 2003, Sharapova reached the fourth round of the prestigious Wimbledon as a wild card. She was a favorite - eventually winning Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Newcomer of the Year. By becoming the third youngest Wimbledon women's champion (after Lottie Dod and Martina Hingis), she was the first Russian to win the tournament. She even defeated established athletes such as Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams - an achievement so huge for a beginner like her.
Having 22 straight wins on grass matches, consecutive Birmingham titles, and the Wimbledon title under her belt, the 18-year old Sharapova rose to the No.1 ranking on August 22, 2005, dethroning Davenport. Her reign was cut short when Davenport ascended to the top again after a week. Sharapova's second reign was on September 12, 2005, which she held for six weeks.
Two years have passed and Sharapova's career is still going strong. The young celebrity sports figure is very determined and focused on her career's path and direction - and that is to be at the top of the game again. "When I was working my way to the top of tennis, I didn't say I was number two, I said I wanted to be number one."