Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Maria Sharapova: Baby-faced teen who conquered Wimbledon

From Matt Majendie, for CNN
updated 9:14 PM EDT, Sun June 22, 2014
She arrived as the underdog, and left with a Wimbledon championship. It's 10 years since 17-year-old Maria Sharapova defeated Serena Williams in that final. It would be her first of five grand slam victories. She arrived as the underdog, and left with a Wimbledon championship. It's 10 years since 17-year-old Maria Sharapova defeated Serena Williams in that final. It would be her first of five grand slam victories.
HIDE CAPTION
Wimbledon winner
U.S. Open title
Australian Open success
French Open crown
... and again
American nemesis
Early exit
Supporting role
Runner-up
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon title as a teenager a decade ago
  • She was underdog against then six-time grand slam champion Serena Williams
  • Now both are favorites to win prestigious grass-court title in 2014
  • Russian has built a successful business empire since her maiden slam success

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

(CNN) -- It is 10 years since Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court.

Just 17 and with a mere six grand slam appearances to her name, she was a huge underdog against Serena Williams -- then already a formidable force in women's tennis.

But Sharapova did the unthinkable, demolishing the defending champion and delighting the crowd, as the smiling teenager opened up her mobile phone on court to contact her mother.

It was "the jump start of my career, where it all began for me," says the first Russian woman to win Wimbledon.

"To think back that I was holding that trophy as a 17-year-old girl is really special. It really makes me feel really happy inside when I look back on those years," Sharapova told CNN's Open Court ahead of this week's return to London's hallowed grass courts.

"Of course it was a little bit of a blur, so young, I was in this incredible dream, this incredible run to the finals. And then winning it, it takes a while to realize, 'Yes, I've done it, I've accomplished that, I've won Wimbledon.' "

A decade later, the two women are again favorites to win Wimbledon -- even if the grass surface has not always proved a happy stomping ground for Sharapova in the intervening years.

She has reached the final just once since those heady days in 2004 -- losing to Czech surprise package Petra Kvitova in 2011 -- and made a shock second-round exit last year to Portugal's 131st-ranked Michelle Larcher de Brito.

Meanwhile, Williams has won three more championships in London in the past decade.

It's been 10 years since Sharapova and Williams faced each other in the Wimbledon final.
Getty Images

The dream for many fans is of a repeat Sharapova-Williams final showdown, but last Friday's draw means they could meet in the last eight.

"For both of us 10 years later to still be grinding, and working, and loving what we do -- I think it's really inspiring for a lot of people around the world because we've gone through a lot in those years," says Sharapova, who won her fifth grand slam title at this month's French Open, while Williams exited early.

"We've battled through injuries, through losses, through wins and we're still there."

Baby-faced teen to sports star supreme

Right now, Sharapova's confidence is sky-high -- though it wasn't always the case.

The five-time grand slam winner sacked coach Jimmy Connors last year after just one match together, which she lost.

Her new partnership with Sweden's Sven Groeneveld appears to be working out a lot better; in Paris she regained the title that Williams took from her the previous year.

Wimbledon's 'giant umbrella'
Ivanisevic: Wimbledon's luckiest wildcard?

But it was her first Wimbledon win that really set Sharapova on her way to global superstardom.

Within a week she was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and today banks about $30 million a year, of which barely a fifth comes from on-court prize money thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike and Head.

It makes her the world's highest-paid female athlete on Forbes' list.

"No matter how prepared you may be, I actually think it's better not to know what will happen," she says of her Wimbledon win.

"Because everything that comes your way seems so better and so much more when you don't have expectations and you have incredible opportunities,"

"I look back and I go, 'Wow, I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 17-year-old girl.'

"I was not naive but I didn't know how cool these things really were and I think that is why I kept myself really grounded, because I was happy and I smiled and I had a great time doing those other things."

Love match

And with fame, came intense media scrutiny.

Today, Sharapova's every move on and off the court is followed by the press -- from her burgeoning business empire to her blossoming relationship with fellow tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, who won the Wimbledon warmup tournament at London's Queen's Club last week.

The Bulgarian -- nicknamed "Baby Fed" after comparisons with men's legend Roger Federer early in his career -- credited partner Sharapova for the victory.

Is boyfriend and budding tennis star Grigor Dimitrov the next Roger Federer?
Getty Images

She appears similarly enthused by the 18-month romance.

"He's so talented out on the court and so smart at what he does. It's really inspiring to watch him play -- even when he doesn't have a good day and loses, I am really inspired by what he is able to produce out there," she says.

Sharapova wins French Open
Sharapova's love affair with Paris

"It's really fun, we enjoy watching each other play. It is also always nice to have good company, that understands what you go through, the tough and the good. To be able to share that, I am certainly lucky."

Brand Sharapova

In the last decade Sharapova has become a lucrative brand in her own right, signing a three-year advertising deal with Porsche last year among her many endorsements, and launching her own confectionery called Sugarpova.

Where does this business drive come from?

"I am actually really scared of doing nothing," she says.

"Because all my career, all my life I've woken up, made my tea or coffee and then am ready to do something, to commit to something.

"It has been tennis for many years and especially when I missed out a year from shoulder surgery, it gave me time to think 'well, this can happen on any given day and you cannot play sport anymore, what are you going to do?'"

A tender moment as Sharapova embraces her father after Wimbledon win.
Getty Images

It might be hard to believe that the businesswoman leading this sporting empire, still sees herself as the teenage girl who climbed up to hug her father Yuri in the players' box after her Wimbledon triumph.

"I think from a very young age, I knew I didn't have so many strengths in my game," she says.

"I knew I wasn't the strongest athlete out there, I knew I didn't have an incredible amount of weapons out there but I knew from a young age that focus, especially in tennis, was one of the biggest weapons that you can have."

For the next fortnight, that focus is firmly on Wimbledon.

Read: Fancy sampling Any Murray's silver service?

Insight: The mom giving tennis parents a good name

Read: The man behind Maria's millions

Read: Can Li Na usurp Sharapova on rich list?

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:08 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Rafael Nadal of Spain watches the ball in his match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia during during day seven of the China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 3, 2014 in Beijing, China.
Rafael Nadal's body might be giving him a few problems, but his mind remains as strong as ever. Will the Spaniard add to his haul of 14 grand slam titles?
updated 8:42 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
A year that began in uncertainty for Roger Federer ended with a historic title for the 17-time grand slam champion and his country.
updated 12:16 PM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
The Scot has served up a few changes to his support team in 2014 but there's one person who isn't going anywhere -- his new fiancée Kim Sears.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
French Tennis player Rene Lacoste, one of France's 'Four Musketeers' who won the Davis Cup in 1932, at Wimbledon. He is wearing his embroidered crocodile motif. Original Publication: People Disc - HH0434 (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
updated 2:36 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Marin Cilic follows in the footsteps of his coach Goran Ivanicevic by claiming a grand slam crown for Croatia, winning the U.S. Open.
updated 9:34 AM EDT, Sun September 14, 2014
Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.
Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Canada and tennis? Really? Yup. The North American tennis power balance is swinging away from the States.
updated 8:52 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
As a player he was as fiery as his hair -- and as Novak Djokovic's coach, Boris Becker says he has to battle to keep his emotions in check.
updated 7:02 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Tennis great Boris Becker says he was stunned by the level of criticism he received after being appointed as Novak Djokovic's coach.
updated 7:01 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
"I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
When Agnieszka Radwanska refused to look her opponent in the eye after losing at Wimbledon, it raised more than eyebrows.
updated 9:14 PM EDT, Sun June 22, 2014
It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
He's regularly voted France's favorite famous person, but many of the nation's youth have "no idea" about his glorious sporting past
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.
ADVERTISEMENT