Sharapova was born on April 19, 1987 in the small town of Nyagan in western Siberia. She developed an early love for tennis and began playing at the age of four. After moving with her parents, Yury and Yelena, to the Black Sea town of Sochi, it was her father who quickly recognised Maria’s talent and encouraged his daughter.
Her first trainer was Yury Yudkin.
“What amazed me straight away was that at 4-and-a-half years of age she was extremely intelligent,” Yudkin remembers.
“Maria absorbed everything I explained and showed to her. She grasped everything in a single flash. She mastered hits, which are still not clear to everyone. At 7 she learned the twisted serve and was a little master.
You cannot imagine that in life she is a kind, soft, smiling girl, because as soon as she takes the racket in her hands, she is a beast! Goal oriented, not scared of anyone, she will do what it takes to win! In the three years of working together not once did she say ‘I am tired’.”
When she was six Maria got a chance to have a lesson with the world famous Martina Navratilova during the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Navratilova saw talent in the very young tennis player and strongly suggested to Yury that he take her to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in the United States. Maria’s wise farther, who was determined to develop his daughter’s talent in every way, decided to risk it. With $700 in his pocket and no knowledge of English, he moved with his daughter to Florida. Maria’s mother stayed behind to finish college and wait for her visa. Maria would not see her mother for two years.
It seemed the odds were against them at first. Maria was too young to be accepted at the Tennis Academy as a full-time student and thus for two years Yury coached her on public and private tennis courts. Their perseverance paid off and Maria received a scholarship to the Academy in 1995. Yury worked two jobs in order to support their living while Maria, now nine years old, lived on campus with girls twice her age who constantly teased her. But Maria’s desire to succeed only intensified and in 2000 she achieved her first success, winning the prestigious Eddie Herr Championship for girls under 16. ...