As a teenager Maria Sharapova entered the tennis court with a bang, beating the best in the business on her path to glory. She is the one of the few players to complete a career Slam, and brought several honours to Russia. However, her inconsistent performances and a failed drug test prevented Sharapova from becoming one of the best ever female players. Nonetheless, she will always be remembered for her brand of tennis that resulted in her winning multiple major titles.
The Japan Open Tennis Championships victory in 2003 might have been Sharapova’s first WTA title, but her spotlight moment came a year later. After exiting the 2004 Australian Open at the early stages, Maria had a positive French Open with a quarterfinal run. But, it was in the Wimbledon that year, Sharapova rose to fame. Seeded 13th, she reached her first Grand Slam final, overcoming former champion Lindsay Davenport.
Defending champion Serena Williams awaited the Russian next. But, the then 17-year-old Sharapova had little difficulty in beating the American superstar in straight sets to become the third-youngest woman to win the Wimbledon title. With that prestigious trophy, Maria also became the second Russian woman to clinch a Grand Slam singles title.
She later made her debut at the 2004 Tour Finals and won it against an injured Serena in the final. When Sharapova became the world No. 1 for the first time in 2005, she was just 18 years old. She also became the first Russian tennis player to lead the women’s singles rankings.
Her next Grand Slam glory came with the 2006 US Open when she defeated Justine Henin in straight sets. Sharapova was at her ruthless best in the tournament, dropping only one set on her path to the title. She had to wait two more years to win her third Slam, which was her first Australian Open crown.
After struggling with injuries, Sharapova’s next shot at a Grand Slam glory came in 2012. As the second seed, Sharapova had little difficulty in reaching the French Open final. With a victory against Sara Errani, she clinched her fourth career Grand Slam title and was only the tenth woman to complete a Career Grand Slam.
Months later, she made her Olympic debut at the 2012 London Games. Placed third in the singles draw, she defeated former No. 1, Kim Clijsters, en route to the Olympic final. Serena Williams was far too good for her in the Gold medal clash as Sharapova had to settle for a Silver. A year later, she won her final Grand Slam at the 2014 French Open.
Sharapova failed a drug test from the 2016 Australian Open and was banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation, which was later reduced to 15 months. After her comeback, the Russian star won her first title in over two years with the 2017 Tianjin Open victory. That was the best she could manage after her return to the game. With injuries taking a toll on her physical health combined with erratic performances on the court, Sharapova hanged her boots in 2020.
A career that promised so much did not reach its full potential. Sharapova never truly managed to dominate the tennis world as many predicted. Media referred to her as the biggest threat to Williams sisters’ domination, but the Russian star failed to live up to the expectation. Nevertheless, Sharapova will be fondly remembered for her incredible stamina and never give-up attitude that made her one of the most competitive players around.