Maria Sharapova: Queen of The Court


Whether it’s her traffic-stopping looks, staggering 6’2 stature, professional tennis wins, modeling engagements, or endorsements, there’s very little about Maria Sharapova that doesn’t garner attention. Recognized by Forbes as the world’s highest paid female athlete for the last decade, Russian-born Sharapova is equal parts athlete and entrepreneur. She has proven herself to be not only one of the best tennis players on the planet, but one of the most marketable as well.
Sharapova’s ascent to the top was as rapid and aggressive as her style on the court: after moving to America as a child, she made her professional debut at 14, becoming the youngest girl to reach the final of the Australian Open junior championship. She won three junior singles tournaments, was runner-up at another five, and captured her first WTA title at the Japan Open Tennis Championships before reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon on her first effort that same year. In 2004, Sharapova was catapulted to international fame by winning Wimbledon against two-time defending champion Serena Williams. During this time, her first endorsement deals also materialized.

The following year, she went on reach number 3 in the world rankings for the first time and became the first Russian woman to hold the world number one ranking. Her success continued in 2006, with Sharapova winning her second Grand Slam singles title, the US Open, and a WTA ranking as world number 2. Sharapova sustained a severe shoulder injury in 2007, which contributed to a series of losses that ultimately sidelined her. After surgery and rehabilitation, she began making a comeback in 2011, when she finished the year ranked 4, her first top 5 finish since 2007. The same year, despite a disappointing run of losses, Forbes ranked Sharapova–the only woman on the list–at number 29 in their list of 50 top-paid athletes. In 2012, Sharapova became the tenth woman in history to complete a Career Grand Slam with her French Open victory. Sharapova made her Olympic debut at the 2012 Summer Olympics and won a silver medal in singles. Shortly thereafter, her shoulder injury resurfaced. By June of this year, though, she won her second French Open title. Most recently, she won an ESPY award for Best Female Tennis Player.

While her game on the court has suffered as a result of her shoulder injury, her game off the court has exploded. Sharapova realized that her time as a tennis pro was limited, and set out to establish herself as a brand. What Motorola started with Wimbledon in 2004 had grown to include Land Rover, Canon, Nike, Tiffany, Tag Heuer, Cole Haan, Porsche, and more. In January 2010, Sharapova renewed her contract with Nike–the most lucrative deal ever for a sportswoman–for $70 million for her own tennis apparel line. She’s also gone on to sweeten her earnings with “Sugarpova,” her own candy line.

Although Sharapova’s time as a tennis pro is finite, her keen business sense and popular appeal suggest her reign off-court is indefinite.