Maria Sharapova made her professional breakthrough in 2004 when, at age 17, she defeated two-time defending champion and top seed Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final for her first Grand Slam singles title. She entered the top 10 of the WTA Rankings with this win. Despite not winning a major in 2005, Sharapova briefly held the no. 1 ranking, and reached three Grand Slam semifinals, losing to the eventual champion each time. She won her second major at the 2006 US Open defeating then-world no. 1 Amélie Mauresmo in the semifinals and world no. 2 Justine Henin in the final. Maria Sharapova's 2007 season was plagued with a chronic shoulder injury and saw her ranking fall out of the top 5 for the first time in two years. She ultimately won her third Grand Slam at the 2008 Australian Open, defeating Henin in the quarterfinals and Ana Ivanović in the final. After reclaiming the no. 1 ranking in May 2008, Sharapova's shoulder problems re-surfaced, ultimately requiring surgery in October and forcing her out of the game for nearly 10 months. Sharapova returned in May 2009 and was ranked no. 126 in the world due to her extensive lay-off. Since her comeback, Sharapova has won five singles titles (bringing her career total to 24) and improved her ranking to the world no. 2.
Maria Sharapova's public profile extends beyond tennis, as she has been featured in a number of modeling assignments, including a feature in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She has been featured in many advertisements, including those for Nike, Prince and Canon, and is the face of several fashion houses, most notably Cole Haan. Sharapova was the most searched-for athlete on Yahoo! in both 2005 and 2008. Since February 2007, she has been a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, concerned specifically with the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme.
In June 2011, Maria Sharapova was named one of the "30 Legends of Women's Tennis: Past, Present and Future" by Time.
At the age of seven, Maria Sharapova attended a tennis clinic in Moscow run by Martina Navrátilová, 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 was forced to borrow the sum that would allow him and his daughter, neither of whom could speak English, to travel to 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 dish-washing, 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.
Sharapova with children in Gomel, an area affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
Sharapova has lived in the United States since moving there at the age of seven. She has a home in Manhattan Beach, California.
Sharapova lists fashion, movies, music and reading the Sherlock Holmes and Pippi Longstocking series as among her off-court interests, while she has also talked in the past about how she takes hip-hop dance classes. Sharapova has a Pomeranian named Dolce, which means "sweet" in Italian. Sharapova is also a stamp collector and has a "huge collection" compiled since she was a child.
Sharapova is engaged to Slovenian professional basketball player Sasha Vujačić (Saša Vujačič, Саша Вујачић), who plays for the Anadolu Efes S.K.. The two have been dating since 2009.
In addition, with Angela Haynes, Maria Kirilenko, Nicole Vaidišová, Rennae Stubbs, Governor Jeb Bush and Jennifer Capriati, Sharapova participated in an exhibition in Tampa in December 2004, raising money for the Florida Hurricane Relief Fund.
In 2005, Maria Sharapova donated around US$50,000 to those affected by the crisis. On February 14, 2007, Sharapova was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and donated US$210,000 to UNDP Chernobyl-recovery projects. She stated at the time that she was planning to travel back to the area after Wimbledon in 2008, though it didn't happen as she had to travel back to the US because of shoulder injury. She fulfilled the trip in late June – early July 2010.
In July 2008, Maria Sharapova sent a message on DVD to the memorial service of Emily Bailes, who had performed the coin toss ahead of the 2004 Wimbledon final that Sharapova had gone on to win.
In 2011, Maria Sharapova was named in Forbes Celebrity 100. This lists her as one of the top 100 most powerful celebrities of the year.
Maria Sharapova has often implied that she desires an early retirement. Following the retirement of 25-year-old Justine Henin, Sharapova said, "If I was 25 and I'd won so many Grand Slams, I'd quit too." In an interview after the 2008 Australian Open, she balked at the idea of playing for another ten years, saying that she hoped to have a "nice husband and a few kids" by then.