Maria Sharapova's parents, Yuri and Elena, are from Gomel,
Belarus. Concerned about the regional effects of the 1986
Chernobyl nuclear accident, they left their homeland shortly
before Sharapova was born.
When Sharapova was two, the family moved to Sochi. There her
father befriended Aleksandr Kafelnikov, whose son Yevgeny
would go on to win two Grand Slam singles titles and become
Russia's first world no. 1 ranked tennis player.
Aleksandr gave Sharapova her first tennis racquet at the age
of four, whereupon she began practicing regularly with her
father at a local park. She took her first tennis lessons
with veteran Russian coach Yuri Yutkin, who was instantly
impressed when he saw her play, noting her "exceptional
At the age of six, Sharapova attended a tennis clinic in
Moscow run by Martina Navratilova, who recommended
professional training at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy
in Florida, which had previously trained players such as
Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, and Anna Kournikova.
With money tight, Yuri borrowed the sum that would enable
him and his daughter, neither of whom could speak English,
to travel to the United States, which they finally did in
1994. Visa restrictions prevented Sharapova's mother from
joining them for two years.
Arriving in Florida with savings of US$700, Sharapova's
father took various low-paying jobs, including dishwashing,
to fund her lessons until she was old enough to be admitted
to the academy.
In 1995, she was signed by IMG, who agreed to pay the annual
tuition fee of $35,000 for Sharapova to stay at the academy,
allowing her to finally enroll at the age of 9.
WTT Newport Beach Breakers - Maria Sharapova Photoshoot
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Maria Sharapova born April 19, 1987) is a Russian professional tennis player. As of February 25, 2013 she is ranked world no. 3.
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