Tennis star Maria Sharapova has a lot going for her. At only 18 years of age she has become the world's highest paid female athlete. Born in Nyagan, Russia, (in the Siberian region) on April 19, 1987, she began playing tennis at a very young age. By the time she was nine she had moved to Bradenton, Florida, (where she currently resides) to train at Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy. Aside from helping to hone Sharapova's skills, Bollettieri is also responsible for the success of many other tennis stars, such as Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, and Venus and Serena Williams.
Sharapova began climbing the ranks in the World Tennis Association (WTA), earning her first tournament title in Japan in 2003. Her crowning moment came in 2004, when she won Wimbledon at a mere 17 year of age, solidifying a consistent spot in the top five. Off the court she is known for her looks. She often takes modeling jobs and works on her endorsements, the likes of which include Motorola, Canon and Honda Japan. The attractive six-foot-tall blond often draws comparisons to fellow Russian tennis-pro-turned-model Anna Kournikova, but her skills on the court are what set the two apart.
In just the past two years she has become the poster child for women's tennis. Billboards promoting the sport feature giant images of Sharapova as ""Maria Mania"" sweeps the globe. She has become the top-draw in the sport, ushering in a new era of rising stars and helping to broaden the field after years of Williams sisters' dominance. 2005 finds Sharapova on pace to take in over $20 million, most of which will come from her endorsements--the most recent a three-year $6 million deal with Colgate-Palmolive. But it is tennis where her focus lies. She carries with her a streak of 17 straight wins on grass heading into Wimbledon 2005, where she will defend her 2004 championship at the prestigious event.