On July 3, 2004, young Maria Sharapova stunned the world when she defeated the legendary Serena Williams and became the first Russian woman to win the Wimbledon title.
The Independent wrote:
“At 17 years and two months, Maria Sharapova is the youngest teenage sensation of the summer… Sharapova is no less attractive than Kournikova, but twice, if not 10 times, the tennis player.”
Playing in her first Grand Slam final, the fearless Sharapova put on an outstanding performance against the six-time Grand Slam and conquered the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world.
The “Screaming Cinderella” won in straight sets (6-1, 6-4) against defending champion Williams.
After her legendary victory, the 17-year-old Maria dropped to her knees and gave in to her emotions:
“It’s just a dream, it’s all too unreal for me to take in.”
The girl, who has come from a small town in Siberia, could not believe her triumph. As the prize, she got the sacred sterling silver salver (the “Rosewater Dish”) and around 1 million $US.
When asked what she would spend it on, the champion said:
“I’m a gift person. I like to buy gifts and I will buy something for my parents and something for myself. It’s been a lot of hard work and I will always be so grateful to my mom and dad for everything.”
Sharapova embraced her father, who was the first to recognize Maria’s talent and helped her make her sporting dream come true:
“I know how hard it was for you to watch the match. But trust me, playing the game was not much easier.”
At a post-match press conference, Sharapova confessed that in the first minutes after her win, Boris Yeltsin called her and congratulated her on the victory.
Maria also mentioned that, although she has been living and training in the US since she was young, she still “thinks in Russian” when on court.
Yury Yudkin, Sharapova’s first trainer about Maria:
“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’.”
The young winner refused to answer only one question – whether she had a boyfriend or not.
“I don’t comment on my personal life.”
Today, Maria is a superstar making millions of dollars in endorsements with a vast number of commercials and magazine covers including Vogue and Sports Illustrated. She is the face of many brands such as Prince, Sony Ericsson, and Land Rover. Sharapova was number 3 on Forbes magazine’s list of ‘Richest Athletes.’
However, Maria sees herself differently in real life:
“The person that my friends know is much more low key than the person that everyone else sees. I’m a very low-key person. I don’t need many things. I don’t need glamour and attention to be happy. I’m very happy being settled and working my butt off and trying to win grand slams. I want my tennis to speak for everything.”