After breaking onto the professional tennis scene at just 14 years old in 2001, Maria Sharapova quickly became one of the sport’s biggest stars. This February, less than two months before she turned 33, she called it a career. In between, the 6-foot-2 Russia-born star reached No. 1 in the world rankings, won five Grand Slam tournaments, posed for Sports Illustrated, and accumulated a pretty impressive net worth, between her tennis winnings, sponsorships, and other deals.
Sharapova was born in Russia in 1987, but has been a permanent resident of the U.S. since 1994, when she was a child. She began playing tennis while still in Russia, first hitting a ball at four. Two years later, she attended a camp run by women’s tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who was impressed with her talents at such a young age.
That experience led the family to move to the United States, to help Maria pursue tennis. She and her father moved to Bradenton, Fla., home of IMG Academy, which she would attend at the age of nine, with IMG footing the bill after signing the young budding star.
In 2000, at 13, Sharapova won the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships, earning her the organization’s Rising Star Award. Five months later she’d make her pro tennis debut. After an impressive run through the junior world ranks, she put in her first full professional season in 2003. It didn’t take long for her to peak as a tennis player from there.
Sharapova’s Tennis Career:
In 2003, Sharapova failed to win her first match at both the Australian and French Opens, but pulled a big upset at Wimbledon, knocking off 11th seed Jelena Dokić, and reaching the fourth round. That year, she won the Japan Open Tennis Championships and the Bell Challenge, her first professional wins.
Her true star turn came at Wimbledon in 2004. At tennis’ most hallowed grounds, she upset Lindsey Davenport in the semifinal and superstar Serena Williams in the final to capture her first Grand Slam title, at just 17 years old. She became the third-youngest Wimbledon winner ever. She’d beat Serena again later in the year, to take home the 2004 WTA Finals title, coming back from a 4-0 deficit in the final set for the victory.
In 2005, Serena Williams got her revenge on Sharapova at the Australian Open, beating her in the semifinal before going on to win the event. She did not win a Grand Slam event that year, but had a strong season otherwise, reaching the No. 1 ranking in the world twice during the second half of the year.
Her success continued through the mid-to-late 2000s, with Grand Slam victories at the U.S. Open in 2006 and Australian Open in 2008. Around this same time, she began to deal with shoulder issues as well. Her 2008 was cut short due to a rotator cuff tear in August, which held her out until the following spring. After a prolonged slump, she’s reemerge in the Top 10 toward the end of 2011, and in 2012, complete her career Grand Slam with a victory over Sara Errani at the French Open, making her the 10th woman to win all four major events. During her run at Roland Garros, she regained the world No. 1 ranking as well. Later that year, she’d take home the Olympic silver medal at the London games.
Shoulder issues continued to plague Sharapova, and ended her 2013 season early. In 2014, she won her fifth and final Grand Slam, defeating Simona Halep at the French Open to win the tournament for the second time in three years.
Maria Sharapova’s career was beset with scandal in 2016. She failed a drug test at the Australian Open, testing positive for the banned substance meldonium. She said that she had been taking the drug for a decade for health reasons, and was unaware that it was banned by the International Tennis Federation. She was initially banned from the sport for two years, but it was reduced to 15 months later that year.
Sharapova had a bit of a career renaissance in 2018, after returning from the suspension, but shoulder and forearm injuries continued to take their toll. At the start of 2020, Sharapova lost in straight sets to Donna Vekić in the first round of the Australian Open. Weeks later, she announced her retirement in an essay published by Vanity Fair.
How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known? How do you walk away from the courts you’ve trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love—one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys—a sport where you found a family, along with fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?
I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis—I’m saying goodbye.
Tennis showed me the world—and it showed me what I was made of. It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth. And so in whatever I might choose for my next chapter, my next mountain, I’ll still be pushing. I’ll still be climbing. I’ll still be growing.
Months later, it appears that she’s at real peace with the decision.
Net Worth, Career Earnings:
According to the WTA, Maria Sharapova is third all-time in career woman’s tennis earnings, behind only Serena and Venus Williams. During her career, which spanned from 2001-2020, she took home $38,777,962, making her the highest-earning non-American woman of all time.
That is, of course, only a fraction of what she’s made in her life, as is often the case with superstar athletes.
Between 2006 and 2016, Forbes listed Sharapova as the highest-paid female athlete in the world every single year. During her run, she signed endorsement and sponsorship deals with numerous huge companies, including Motorola, Land Rover, Canon, Tag Heuer, Tiffany, Gatorade, Tropicana, Nike, Head Sport, Evian, NetJets, and Porsche.
In 2020, Forbes ranks Sharapova at No. 87 on its list of wealthiest self-made women. The publication estimates Maria Sharapova’s net worth at a whopping $200 million.
Maria Sharapova’s Personal Life: Is She Married?
Sharapova has been in a few high-profile relationships during her career. She has not been married, though it has nearly happened.
In 2011, she was engaged to former Los Angeles Lakers forward Sasha Vujačić, after two years of dating. The two separated and broke off the engagement the following year.
In 2012, she began dating Grigor Dimitrov, a Bulgarian professional tennis player. The two broke up in 2015.
Since 2018, she has been in a relationship with British businessman Alexander Gilkes, the co-founder and former president of online auction platform Paddle8 and co-founder of the venture studio Squared Circles. Gilkes was married to fashion designer Misha Nonoo from 2012-2017.
What is Maria Sharapova Doing Now?:
Based on her social media profiles, Sharapova has been enjoying her time away from tennis, just as she planned it. From her Vanity Fair essay announcing her retirement:
In the meantime, there are a few simple things I’m really looking forward to: A sense of stillness with my family. Lingering over a morning cup of coffee. Unexpected weekend getaways. Workouts of my choice (hello, dance class!).
By the looks of it, she’s had plenty of those non-tennis focused workouts, as well as plenty of hikes, some cooking, and some general relaxing. Given what 2020 has brought, that is about the extent of what one can hope for.
She has also been hard at work running Sugarpova, the confectionary brand that she launched in 2013.
According to Forbes, the company posted sales of $20 million in 2019. She owns 100-percent of the brand.
She’s also started to pop up in the entertainment world over the last few years. She has had a pair of cameos on the Showtime hit drama Billions, as well as 2018’s Ocean’s 8, the Apple TV+ drama series The Morning Show, and in 2020, served as a guest shark on the hit TV series Shark Tank.
While her tennis career may be over, we should be seeing plenty of Maria Sharapova for years to come.