Tennis

What Ever Happened to Tennis Star Maria Sharapova?

At the age of 17, Maria Sharapova burst onto the tennis scene and quickly vaulted to No. 1 in the women’s tennis world rankings. She was one of the top players on the women’s tour for several years until her career was derailed by injuries and other issues.

After being at the top of the sport, she took a precipitous fall down the rankings and out of the spotlight. But Sharapova has not given up on tennis. She still competes in events to this day — 15 years after her coming-out party at Wimbledon. Here’s a look at the rise, fall, and current life of the former No. 1 from Russia.

Surprise upset at 2004 Wimbledon

In 2004, the 17-year-old competed at Wimbledon in her first Grand Slam tournament. Entering the tournament as a 13-seed, Sharapova made it through her first four matches without losing a set. But she faced tougher competition in the quarterfinals.

Facing the 11-seed Ai Sugiyama, Sharapova got three sets and moved on to face Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals. She beat the fifth-seeded American in three sets, then faced her toughest challenge of the tournament in the finals against No. 1 Serena Williams. Sharapova pulled off the upset, beating Williams in straight sets, 6-1 and 6-4.

Maria Sharapova’s rise up the ranks

In the wake of her Wimbledon victory, the Russian pro entered the top 10 of the world rankings and continued to perform well. Sharapova lost to Williams in the Australian Open final in 2005. She made the quarterfinals of that year’s French Open, but couldn’t defend her Wimbledon title — losing to Venus Williams in the semis.

Then, Sharapova ended that year’s Grand Slam events by losing to Kim Clijsters in the semis, completing the feat of losing to the eventual champion in all four of 2005’s major tournaments. That September, she made it to the No. 1 spot in the rankings for the first time, passing Davenport. She went on to win the 2006 U.S. Open.

Her downfall

Sharapova had shoulder injuries that barred her from action for parts of 2007 and 2008. In October 2008, she had shoulder surgery to repair a rotator cuff tear after attempts to rehabilitate it failed. She had an upswing for a short time, reaching the world No. 1 again in 2011 and 2012, when she completed the career Grand Slam by winning the French Open.

In 2013, Sharapova suffered a third shoulder injury. She won another French Open title in 2014, her last Grand Slam championship to date. In 2016, Sharapova failed a drug test for meldonium at the Australian Open, which led to a 15-month ban from the International Tennis Federation (reduced from 24 months). She returned to the WTA Tour following the suspension in 2017.

Where is she now?

While Sharapova is not in the international spotlight like she once was, the now-32-year-old still competes today. She played in her 800th career singles match at the 2019 Shenzhen Open. She missed several tournaments in the early part of the year, including the French Open, due to a lingering shoulder injury.

After a four-and-a-half-month absence, Sharapova returned to action at the Mallorca Open, a small grass-court event held in a secluded corner of the island. Sharapova is a long way from the No. 1 ranking she held many times in her career. The WTA currently ranks her No. 87 in the world. Since returning from her suspension in 2017, the Russian athlete has not ranked higher than No. 21.