Maria Sharapova has been Russia's most successful tennis player of all time, and let us break her career into individual seasons, looking at what she has achieved in each of the seasons to prepare everyone for her comeback on 26th April 2017.
Win: Tokyo (Japan Women’s Tennis Open), Bell Challenge (Quebec City)
2003 was Sharapova’s breakthrough season as she won her first two WTA finals in Tokyo and Quebec City. With these wins, she rose to the world’s top 50 in the rankings for the first time and made an impression on tour as one of the world’s best youngsters at just 16 years old.
2004: Major Success
Win: Birmingham Classic, Wimbledon Championships, Korea Open (Seoul), Japan Women’s Tennis Open, WTA Finals (Los Angeles)
Runner-up: Zurich Open
Sharapova achieved her first major successes in 2004 as she won her first grand slam title at the Wimbledon Championships, causing a huge shock at the age of 17 after defeating Serena Williams in the final. In her lead-up event to Wimbledon, she was one of the dark horses already as she won the Birmingham Classic, starting her winning record on grass. In May, the Russian defeated her compatriot Elena Dementieva to earn her first top 10 win in her career.
At the end of the season, after reaching the final in Zurich to confirm her place in her first WTA Year-end Championships, she created yet another major shock as one of the underdogs after storming to the trophy, defeating three top 10 players along the way.
2005: World Number One
Win: Pan Pacific Open (Tokyo), Qatar Ladies Open, Birmingham Classic
Runner-up: Miami Masters
Starting off the year well, Sharapova reached the semifinals of the Australian Open to set up a meeting with Serena Williams. There, she earned three match point opportunities but failed to convert them all, eventually losing the match. Had she converted any of the three match points, she would be the favourite for the title in the final.
Nevertheless, she bounced back from her loss by winning consecutive events in Tokyo and Qatar respectively, including a win over reigning world number one Lindsay Davenport. Sharapova suffered her first and only double bagel of her career at Indian Wells, being whitewashed by the same opponent despite being the world number three then. Sharapova had the chance to become the world number one at the Italian Open but failed to win the tournament to do so.
Her winning record on grass stopped at 24 as she lost to Venus Williams in the semifinals of Wimbledon while defending her title, which was a poor performance in her standards. Sharapova finally became the first Russian to rise to the top of the rankings on 22nd August 2005, a date that would be very special to all her fans. Losing in the semifinals of the WTA Tour Championships to end off the year with, Sharapova ended the year as the world number four.
2006: US Open
Win: Indian Wells Masters, Southern California Open (San Diego), US Open, Zurich Open, Linz Open
Runner-up: Miami Masters
Opting not to play any lead-up events to the first grand slam of the year, the risky decision proved to be wise as Sharapova reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in just her first tournament of the year. There, she disappointingly lost to Justine Henin in a very tight three-set match, wasting break point chances at 2-2 in the final set. That proved crucial as the Belgian got the much-needed breakthrough in the next game, eventually closing out the match in three sets. Nevertheless, it was a very positive tournament as she claimed a win over fellow Russian and top 10 player Nadia Petrova in straight sets, getting her 2006 off on a great mark.
Her next tournament was in Tokyo where she shockingly lost to the resurgent Martina Hingis, being on the receiving end of the huge upset that was completed in straight sets. Sharapova’s following tournament in Dubai saw her exact revenge over the Swiss and getting a great win over world number three Lindsay Davenport, before losing to Henin for the second consecutive time. The Russian finally won a title as she triumphed in Indian Wells, getting her second straight win over Hingis and defeating countrywoman Elena Dementieva in the final, losing just three games in the process. Looking to complete the “Sunshine Double”, Sharapova defeated three seeds in a row (two of whom are Russians) before losing to another countrywoman, Svetlana Kuznetsova, in the final.
Taking two months off the tour to recover from a foot injury that has been lingering since the final, Sharapova skipped all clay court tournaments and returned at the French Open, choking a 5-1 lead in the final set against Dinara Safina to lose in the fourth round, making her comeback short-lived. Sharapova then reached back to back semifinals on grass after she was shocked in the semifinals of Birmingham by Jamea Jackson and in Wimbledon against world number one Amelie Mauresmo.
Her second title of the year came at San Diego, defeating three consecutive top 10 players in Mary Pierce, Patty Schnyder, and Kim Clijsters, clinching her second hard court title of the year without losing a single set. Losing to a Russian once again, Sharapova had her Los Angeles campaign ended earlier than expected in the semifinals as she fell to Elena Dementieva, entering the US Open with a loss.
Coming into Flushing Meadows as one of the heavy favourites, Sharapova did not disappoint as she strolled to the title losing just one set against world number one Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals, and gave her a literal “double bagel sandwich” as she defeated her with a weird scoreline of 6-0, 4-6, 6-0. Then, Sharapova defeated the world number two Justine Henin in the final despite being the underdog, clinching her second grand slam title at the age of just 19. An injury forced her to withdraw from her quarterfinal match at the Moscow Open, but she returned with a bang as she stormed her way to the title at the Zurich Open, defeating Daniela Hantuchova in the final.
Sharapova’s win streak was extended to 16 as she claimed two more top 10 victories at the Linz Open, clinching the title without losing a set once again. Her outstanding streak of five consecutive top 10 wins stopped at five as she was on the losing end against Justine Henin, despite being tipped to win her second WTA Tour Championships title which would have gotten her the year-end number one ranking.
2007: Injury problems
Win: Southern California Open (San Diego)
Runner-up: Australian Open, Birmingham Classic, WTA Finals (Madrid)
Due to some personal problems, Justine Henin withdrew from the whole Australian swing, causing Sharapova to be the top seed at the Australian Open. Favourite for the title, Sharapova suffered a huge scare against a relatively unknown player, Camille Pin, in the first round having been two points away from crashing out of the tournament. From there, she cruised to the final without losing a set and looked to clinch the title easily. However, she suffered a shock loss to then-world number 81 Serena Williams in the final, managing to only win three games in the final. Nevertheless, the run to the final secured the Russian a return to the top spot in the rankings for the first time since 2005.
Struggling with a hamstring injury, Sharapova failed to replicate her good form as she retired in her quarterfinal match against Ana Ivanovic in Tokyo, following it up with an early exit at Indian Wells with a disappointing loss to Vera Zvonareva, failing to defend her title and thus losing the number one spot to Henin once again. After securing an encouraging win over Venus Williams in the second round of the Miami Open, Sharapova saw nightmares from January get to her nerves as she won only two games in her loss to Serena Williams, with her bad form dragging her behind.
For a second consecutive year, Sharapova withdrew from most of the clay court tournaments due to a shoulder injury, with the Istanbul Cup being her only warm-up event. Her rustiness from lack of match play seemed to get over her as she fell in the semifinals to Aravane Rezai in straight sets, entering the French Open with a loss. An unexpected run to her first ever French Open semifinals followed after as she suffered yet another lopsided loss, this time to Ana Ivanovic who conceded only three consolation games. Nevertheless, it was definitely one of the best performance on clay for Sharapova as she carved out a tough victory over Patty Schnyder in the third round, triumphing 9-7 in the final set.
The top seed in Birmingham once more, Sharapova suffered her first and only loss to Jelena Jankovic in three tight sets, marking the second straight time she had failed to win the title as the top seed. Looking to make a deep run at Wimbledon to boost her confidence, Sharapova’s fans were disappointed once more as she fell to eventual champion Venus Williams in the fourth round, her earliest exit in the tournament since 2003.
Sharapova’s long wait for a first title of the year finally came in her next tournament held in San Diego, Earning a victory over the sixth-ranked Anna Chakvetadze in the semifinals, Sharapova won the title after defeating Patty Schnyder once again to claim the title. The Russian looked to extend her good run in Los Angeles but was forced to withdraw from her semifinal against Nadia Petrova due to yet another lingering injury. Her disappointing season continued when she fell to 30th seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round of the US Open, with this becoming her earliest exit at a grand slam tournament since the 2004 US Open.
Her next tournament in the Kremlin Cup saw her fall in the opening round to Victoria Azarenka in straight sets, causing her to fall out of the top 5 in the rankings. Originally being just an alternate at the WTA Tour Championships, a withdrawal by Venus Williams saw her luckily enter the field despite not winning a single match in the last two months and winning just one single title. Unexpectedly, Sharapova played her best tennis in the year as she rattled off three straight top 10 wins in the round robin format, advancing to the semifinals where she lost just four games against Chakvetadze to reach her second final of the year-ending championships. Failing to take advantage of the first set victory against Justine Henin, Sharapova eventually ran out of steam and fell in three sets after a marathon 3 hours and 24 minutes, re-entering the top five in the rankings once again.
2008: Australian Open, World Number One, career-threatening injury
Win: Australian Open, Qatar Ladies Open, Amelia Island Championships
Sharapova continued not to play lead-up events to the first grand slam of the year in Melbourne, coming into the Australian Open fresh but without match practice. Despite her seeding of five, the Russian was not considered a favourite for the title and was expected to crash out early after her disappointing 2007. Nevertheless, Sharapova shocked everyone by showing them her capability to beat the top players consistently, strolling to the title after claiming wins over the fourth-ranked, third-ranked and top-ranked player in her title run without losing a set, a statistic very worth applauding for.
Sharapova’s amazing run continued in her Fed Cup debut match as she won both her matches in comfortable fashion to clinch a perfect debut and the win for Russia. The Russian’s 2008 continued to reach greater heights as she won yet another title, this time in Doha. The win extended her winning streak to 14, winning two titles in the process. Wanting to continue her streak of good results in Dubai, Sharapova suffered from a viral infection and was forced to withdraw from the tournament.
Returning to Indian Wells, Sharapova reached the semifinals for the third time in four years as she earned another top 10 victory over Daniela Hantuchova before disappointingly being outhit by compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova, who played some inspired tennis. This ended her winning streak at 18, her longest since 2006. Due to a shoulder injury, Sharapova was forced to withdraw from the Miami Open.
Returning to tennis on the green clay at Amelia Island, Sharapova won her first ever clay court title in her career as she defeated Dominika Cibulkova in the final, making her 2008 season even better for her. With some momentum going into Charleston, Sharapova fell in the quarterfinals to Serena Williams in three sets. Despite it being a lopsided loss for the Russian, she had set points in the first set but was unable to convert, eventually seeing Williams taking the set.
Injuries seem to be hindering Sharapova from further success in the year as she was forced to withdraw from yet another tournament, this time in the semifinals of the Italian Open, where she just received a wildcard into after her comeback from her suspension. Due to Justine Henin’s sudden retirement during the tournament, Sharapova was immediately elevated to the top spot as the Belgian made a request for her name to be taken off the rankings as soon as possible. Being the top seed at the French Open for the first time in her career, Sharapova suffered a huge scare against compatriot Evgeniya Rodina in the first round, leaving her top spot in jeopardy. Nevertheless, she eventually prevailed 8-6 in the final set and safely progressed to the second round. Facing another compatriot in the fourth round, Sharapova earned match points in the second set against Dinara Safina but failed to convert, only to see Safina eventually take the match in three sets. This was a disappointing tournament for Sharapova, losing the world number one spot to eventual champion Ana Ivanovic.
Sharapova then had her earliest exit at the Wimbledon Championships in her career, shockingly losing to 154th ranked Alla Kudryavtseva in the second round. With a reoccurring shoulder injury, Sharapova was forced to withdraw from her fourth tournament of the year at the Rogers Cup after getting to the third round. This found out to be a serious career-threatening shoulder injury which needed immediate surgery and effectively ended her season altogether, which was a huge pity considering how much she would have achieved without any injuries.
Win: Pan Pacific Open (Tokyo)
Runner-up: Rogers Cup (Toronto)
Making her comeback to tennis at the BNP Paribas Open playing in the doubles competition only, she lost in the first round along with Elena Vesnina. That loss allowed her to take an extended rest as she knew that her shoulder still needs more recuperation time. Finally making her return to singles competition, Sharapova reached the quarterfinal of the Warsaw Open before losing to the eventual finalist Alona Bondarenko in straight sets. Despite the loss, Sharapova would be happy with her performance considering it was only her first tournament back.
Given a wildcard into the French Open, Sharapova upset two seeds along the way to the quarterfinals where she was outclassed in straight sets by Dominika Cibulkova, being able to only win two games in the process. A semifinal appearance in Birmingham followed as she lost to Li Na, entering Wimbledon with a positive mindset. However, everything seemed to be going wrong for Sharapova as she was shocked in the second round by Gisela Dulko in three sets, suffering an unexpected early exit.
Her hard court season saw her lose in the quarter-finals of the Stanford Classic to Venus Williams, who managed to outhit the Russian in straight sets. An encouraging semifinal run in Los Angeles followed as she fell to Flavia Pennetta in three sets, before backing it up with an excellent run to the final at the Rogers Cup. The US Open saw Sharapova suffer an early exit as she was on the receiving end of a huge shock against American youngster Melanie Oudin in the third round.
Sharapova finally won her first title of the year at the Pan Pacific Open after her opponent in the final Jelena Jankovic retired down 2-5 in the first set due to an injury, allowing Sharapova to rise in the rankings and continue her comeback. The Russian ended her season at the China Open, defeating Victoria Azarenka in her opening match before being upset by Peng Shuai in straight sets,
2010: Poor season
Win: US National Indoor Championships (Memphis), Internationaux de Strasbourg
Runner-up: Birmingham Classic, Stanford Classic, Cincinnati Masters
Sharapova started her season with a first-round loss at the Australian Open at the hands of compatriot Maria Kirilenko, with this defeat being just her third loss in her career in the first round of any Grand Slams. Nevertheless, she bounced back from this disappointing exit perfectly as she stormed to the title in Memphis being the top seed there, regaining some confidence. Proceeding to Indian Wells, the Russian suffered yet another disappointing defeat, this time at the hands of Zheng Jie in three sets to crash out of the tournament earlier than expected.
With an elbow injury, Sharapova was kept out of action all the way until the Madrid Open, where Lucie Safarova halted her comeback by triumphing in straight sets, giving Sharapova her fourth loss (out of four) to a lower-ranked player this year. Taking a wildcard into Strasbourg, the Russian looked to gain back some confidence being the top seed there and the favourite for the title. Sharapova then did not disappoint anyone as she strolled to the title, her second of the year. Her clay court season came to an end when she put up an inspired performance against specialist Justine Henin but was unable to fend off the tough resistance from the Belgian who took the win in three sets.
A great start to the grass season saw Sharapova reach the final in Birmingham but failed to capture the title as top-seeded Li Na played an excellent match to take the match and the trophy in straight sets. Moving on to Wimbledon, Sharapova faced nemesis Serena Williams in the fourth round and looked on course for a first victory over the American in six years after she earned set points in the first set. However, Sharapova was unable to convert those against the eventual champion and fell in straight sets eventually. Nevertheless, it was a great performance by Sharapova who showed glimpses of her best tennis recently.
Impressive runs in both Stanford and Cincinnati saw Sharapova reach back to back finals, earning her only two top 10 wins of the year along the way. However, she missed her chances in both finals as Victoria Azarenka easily defeated her in Stanford and Kim Clijsters held her nerves to save multiple championship points to clinch the title eventually, marking the end of Sharapova’s excellent run. Looking in great form at the US Open, Sharapova unexpectedly fell to Caroline Wozniacki in the fourth round as the Dane played some incredible tennis, managing to go against Sharapova’s merciless offense.
A disappointing end to the season, similar to 2009, saw Sharapova suffer back to back losses as she fell to a shock defeat to Kimiko Date in three sets at Tokyo, before ending her season with a second round performance at the China Open where she lost to compatriot Elena Vesnina, falling in straight sets.
2011: Returning to the top
Win: Italian Open (Rome), Cincinnati Masters
Runner-up: Miami Masters, Wimbledon Championships
Sharapova had a very disappointing start to the season as she fell in the quarterfinals of the Auckland International, losing to veteran Greta Arn in straight sets. Her poor Australian Swing ended at the hands of Andrea Petkovic after the German put up a spirited display to triumph in straight sets at their Australian Open fourth round match. Another disappointing result saw Sharapova fall to Virginie Razzano in the Fed Cup tie between Russia and France, being on the receiving end of the huge upset in straight sets.
Her season started to receive a boost at the BNP Paribas Open as she reached the semifinals before being outclassed by the world number one and in-form Caroline Wozniacki, winning only three games in the process. Another strong performance followed as she affirmed her position at the top of women’s tennis by reaching the final of the Miami Open, earning a top five win over Samantha Stosur and winning her longest match played in her career against Alexandra Dulgheru in the process. Avenging her defeat over Andrea Petkovic in the semifinals, Sharapova disappointingly fell to Victoria Azarenka in the final as she failed to keep up with the pace of the Belarusian, losing in straight sets.
The clay season was much of a positive thing to Sharapova, reaching the third round of Madrid where she lost to Dominika Cibulkova in a tight straight sets match before strolling to the title in Rome without losing a set to clinch just her third title on clay. The Russian then had a great chance to reach her first Roland Garros final with wins over Agnieszka Radwanska, Andrea Petkovic in the process, and furthermore, she also came from 3-6 1-4 down in the second round to defeat dangerous wildcard, Caroline Garcia. However, she suffered a poor loss to Li Na in the semifinals as she failed to take her chances well and therefore missed the golden opportunity to progress to her first ever final in Paris.
Sharapova, for the first time since 2008, did not play a warm-up event on grass as she headed into Wimbledon without any match practice. That risk was proved to be well-taken as Sharapova strolled to reach the final, not losing any sets in the process. Her first Grand Slam final since her comeback to tennis, Sharapova, unfortunately, fell to an inspired Petra Kvitova as she played her best tennis to fend off the challenge from the Russian.
Some devastating losses followed as Sharapova fell to the resurgent Serena Williams in the quarterfinal of the Stanford Classic, and then to qualifier Galina Voskoboeva, who was then ranked outside of the top 100 at 135. She lost both matches in straight sets and it would definitely be tournaments to forget for the Russian. Nevertheless, Sharapova bounced back from the losses perfectly as she clinched the title in Cincinnati, claiming two victories over top 10 players to enter the US Open with a positive mindset. Facing a player whom she always had troubles against, Sharapova fell in the third round of the US Open to Flavia Pennetta to have yet another early exit at a major tournament.
Claiming a confidence-boosting victory over Julia Goerges in the second round of Tokyo, her run came to a sudden end as she fell to the ground and rolled her ankle in her quarterfinal match against Petra Kvitova, causing her to retire from the match and ultimately ending up in a withdrawal from the China Open.
Qualifying for the WTA Tour Championships for the first time since 2007, Sharapova’s ankle injury continued to affect her greatly as it forced her to withdraw from the competition after two losses against Li Na and Samantha Stosur, and was unable to play her best in the matches.
2012: Career Grand Slam, World Number One, Olympics Silver Medal, Finals of WTA Finals, Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami
Win: Stuttgart Open, Italian Open (Rome), French Open (Roland Garros)
Runner-up: Australian Open, Indian Wells Masters, Miami Masters, London Summer Olympics, China Open (Beijing), WTA Finals (Istanbul)
The ankle injury from Tokyo last year was continuing to trouble her in this year as Sharapova had to withdraw from the Brisbane International and forced her to make her first match of the year to be played at the Australian Open. Nevertheless, it seemed to be nothing serious for her as she successfully reached her third final in Melbourne as she defeated world number two Petra Kvitova along the way. However, she was outclassed by Victoria Azarenka in the final, who went on to gain her first Grand Slam title in her career and rise to the number one spot for the first time.
Her next event came in Fed Cup, where she helped Russia to secure a point as she easily defeated Silvia Soler-Espinosa, losing just three games in a row. This then secured her place at her debut Olympics games. Suffering a disappointing defeat at the Open GDF Suez to eventual champion Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals to exit the tournament earlier than expected, heading to Indian Wells, not in the best form.
Progressing to the final in Indian Wells, Sharapova defeated Maria Kirilenko and Ana Ivanovic to reach her second final of the year and it would be Victoria Azarenka opposite the net once again. However, it was the same outcome as in Melbourne as the Belarusian cruised to the title once again, blowing Sharapova off the court as she just lost five games in a row. Having the golden opportunity to win her first ever Miami Open in four tries, Sharapova stormed to the final as she defeated two top 10 players in a row but narrowly suffered a shock loss to Agnieszka Radwanska there in straight sets to miss her chance for her first ever title in Miami.
Sharapova then reached her third consecutive final in Stuttgart as she benefitted from a retirement from Alize Cornet in the second round after receiving a bye, before rattling off three straight top five wins to clinch her first title in Stuttgart, including coming back from a huge deficit against Samantha Stosur in the quarterfinal. Also, she avenged her losses against Victoria Azarenka by defeating her in straight sets for the first time this year in the final.
Her run on clay came to an end at the hands of nemesis Serena Williams once again as she fell in straight sets, exiting at the quarterfinals stage of the Madrid Open, the first time in history when an event was played on blue clay. Sharapova then rebounded from the loss by winning the title in Rome, coming through a tough fight against Li Na in the final as she defeated Angelique Kerber, Ana Ivanovic, and Venus Williams along the way. Coming into the French Open as one of the huge favourites, Sharapova strolled to the title losing just one set, and not losing more than three games per set (other than her match against Klara Koulakova in the third round) throughout the tournament. This clinched the Career Grand Slam for her, being the first Russian to ever do so and it was truly an emotional fortnight for her. This win also pushed her back into the top of the world rankings for the first time since 2008, allowing her to be seeded first at Wimbledon.
Being the top seed, world number one and defending finalist at Wimbledon, all eyes were on the Russian as she was faced with a tremendous amount of pressure at the start. A slight mid-match hiccup in the second round saw her lose a set to Tsvetana Pironkova but rebounded to gift her a bagel in the final set. Sharapova then seemed to fall to the pressure as she lost to grass court specialist Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round, causing her to fall from the number one spot after a short stay there for a month.
Sharapova made history at the London Olympics when she became the first female flag barrier for Russia at the opening ceremony and was the second seed in the Women’s Singles competition. Avenge her loss at Wimbledon, Sharapova defeated Sabine Lisicki in three sets before following it up with victories over Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals and Maria Kirilenko in the semifinals to secure a place on the podium. There, she suffered a humiliating loss at the hands of Serena Williams in the Gold Medal match, where Williams earned the Career Golden Slam after winning her first Gold Medal in singles. Sharapova could have earned the same achievement too, but Williams’ performance was just too much for her. Nevertheless, it was a positive tournament from the Russian as she managed to clinch a Silver Medal.
Sharapova’s impressive 2012 continued at the US Open as she reached the semifinals with hard-fought wins over Nadia Petrova and Marion Bartoli, before putting up a tough fight and losing to Victoria Azarenka in three sets. A disappointing tournament for Sharapova followed as she exited in the quarterfinals to Samantha Stosur in Tokyo despite having set point opportunities in the second set. Losing just 20 games along the way, Sharapova reached the final at the China Open as she was faced with a familiar foe in Victoria Azarenka there. The Russian then fell in straight sets to gift Azarenka the title, her fourth loss to the Belarusian this year (With three of them being in finals and the other one in a semifinal).
Her stellar season came to an end at the WTA Tour Championships, strolling through the Round Robin as she earned a 3-0 record, which includes coming through a tough battle against Agnieszka Radwanska in her second match that lasted over three hours. Earning her first victory over Victoria Azarenka on hard courts in this year, Sharapova proceeded to the final with Serena Williams waiting for her across the net. Despite putting up a spirited performance there, Sharapova eventually fell in straight sets to gift Williams the title.
2013: French Open final, Indian Wells title
Win: Indian Wells Masters
Runner-up: Miami Open, Madrid Open, French Open (Roland Garros)
Sharapova withdrew from the Brisbane International in her first tournament of the year due to a collarbone injury and entered the Australian Open without any match practice at all. It was truly an amazing performance from Sharapova there despite the injury concerns, winning both of her first two matches with a double bagel scoreline, the first time that it had ever happened at a Grand Slam since 1985. Continuing her amazing run, Sharapova stormed to the semifinals only losing 9 games in the process, breaking Monica Seles’ record. However, she was given a huge shock as Li Na produced an excellent performance to reach the final after conceding just four games in the process, putting a sudden halt to the Russian’s amazing run.
Sharapova’s amazing start to the season as she followed it her run in Melbourne with another semifinal run at the Qatar Total Open but lost to Serena Williams there, who regained the number one ranking at the end of the tournament. The Russian then reached her third straight semifinal to start the year with after she reached the final at the BNP Paribas Open in some impressive style, and eventually defeated Caroline Wozniacki in the final having just lost four games in the one-sided final. A second consecutive final saw Sharapova have the golden opportunity to clinch the “Sunshine Double” as she reached the final in Miami, winning her 22nd set in the process to set up a blockbuster meeting with Serena Williams in the final. She originally led by a set and a break in that final, but lost her way from there as she lost 10 games in a row to miss the chance to win achieve the “Sunshine Double”.
Sharapova’s clay court season started the best way possible as she claimed the title at the Stuttgart Open, securing a successful title defence as she beat four top 30 players consecutively. Sharapova then reached her fourth final in a row as she reached the final of the Madrid Open, losing once again to nemesis Serena Williams in straight sets. A viral illness separated Sharapova from an impressive third straight final as she was forced to withdraw from her quarterfinal against Sara Errani in the Italian Open. Nevertheless, this did not affect her performance at the French Open as she defeated Victoria Azarenka in the process to reach her second straight final in Paris. There, she suffered her fourth loss of the year against Serena Williams, failing to defend her title.
This was when Sharapova’s season went declining as she fell to a shock defeat in the second round of Wimbledon, falling to qualifier Michelle Larcher De Brito to suffer a shocking exit. It turned out to be a shoulder injury that has been constantly troubling Sharapova as she was forced to end her season early at the Cincinnati Masters after losing to Sloane Stephens in her opening round match.
2014: 5th Grand Slam
Win: Stuttgart Open, Madrid Open, French Open (Roland Garros), China Open (Beijing)
Sharapova started 2014 with a semifinal loss at the Brisbane International to her nemesis Serena Williams despite a very tight second set and headed straight to Melbourne for the Australian Open with some renewed confidence. However, she fell to a shock fourth round defeat to Dominika Cibulkova there, heading home earlier than expected as she was the favourite to clinch the title after her main rival Serena Williams already fell in the fourth round too. Another disappointing performance saw Sharapova fall to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the eventual champion, in the semifinals of the Open GDF Suez.
Sharapova’s poor run was carried over with her into Indian Wells, causing her to lose in the second round against Camila Giorgi. With three losses to players outside the top 20 already, it was the worst possible start to the season for the Russian. Fortunately, Sharapova exited in Miami with renewed confidence as she powered her way through to the semifinals before losing to Serena Williams despite having a 4-1 lead in the first set. There, she earned confidence-boosting victories over Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova, allowing her to reach the semifinals.
Being the two-time defending champion at the Stuttgart Open, Sharapova faced great danger of falling out of the top 10 had she not defended her title due to some poor results. After a thrilling blockbuster first round match against Lucie Safarova where the Russian triumphed in three tiebreak sets, Sharapova strolled to her second title defense in Stuttgart as she defeated Ana Ivanovic in the final, reassuring her place in the top 10. Sharapova’s status as the queen of clay courts was further affirmed as she extended her winning streak to 11, clinching the title in Madrid after she rattled off three straight top 10 wins. A disappointing loss to Ana Ivanovic in Rome stopped her winning streak, but that did not prevent her from strolling to the title at the French Open despite being one of the underdogs, triumphing in four consecutive three-set matches for her fifth grand slam title of her illustrious career.
As the fifth seed in Wimbledon, Sharapova was the huge favourite for back to back grand slams as her main rivals all fell in the early rounds, causing her to feel the pressure. It proved costly as Angelique Kerber eventually got the better of her in the fourth round, being victorious in the thrilling match that went the distance.
The Russian had a very poor US Hard Court Swing as she failed to progress past the semi-finals in any of the tournaments, falling to Carla Suarez Navarro in Montreal and wasting two match points against Ana Ivanovic in Cincinnati. Losing to an inspired Caroline Wozniacki, the eventual finalist, in the fourth round of the US Open, Sharapova’s poor form from the start of the year seemed to be replicating itself as she fell in the third round of the first ever Wuhan Open too, this time against the resurgent Timea Bacsinszky.
However, Sharapova soon regained her composure and strolled to the title in Beijing, defeating Petra Kvitova in the final for the number two ranking going into the WTA Finals, with a huge chance of regaining top spot in the rankings with the title. Having to win in straight sets against Agnieszka Radwanska to progress to the semifinals, Sharapova threw away a 7-5, 5-2 lead only to win in three sets to crash out of the tournament, therefore ending the season as the world number two.
2015: Injury problems
Win: Brisbane International, Italian Open (Rome)
Runner-up: Australian Open
A couple of injury problems caused Sharapova to miss the whole US Hardcourt Swing but still managed to finish as the world number four, which is pretty impressive considering she only played 11 events. Starting off the year strong, Sharapova beat Ana Ivanovic in the final of the Brisbane Internationall to increase her chances of rising to the stop spot once again after the Australian Open with a good run. Saving two match points in her second round match against Alexandra Panova, she strolled to the final where she disappointingly lost to Serena Williams in the high-quality straight sets match.
After a series of disappointing results, Sharapova’s next outstanding results came on clay at both Madrid and Rome. In Madrid, Sharapova fell in the semifinals against compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets, a huge upset in most opinions. However, she bounced back perfectly from the loss by winning the Italian Open in Rome by defeating Carla Suarez Navarro in the final, making her one of the big favourites for the French Open. The Russian shockingly lost to Lucie Safarova in the fourth round of Roland Garros, missing out on yet another chance to defend a grand slam title.
A low-key semifinal appearance at Wimbledon followed, but she was out of action with injury problems until Wuhan, where she received a wildcard. Another injury came up as she conceded a rare retirement in her opening match back, causing her to withdraw from the China Open, where she was the defending champion, in preparation for the WTA Finals and the Fed Cup final.
A big favourite at the WTA Finals without the presence of Serena Williams, she lost to Petra Kvitova in a match that saw the Russian making loads of unforced errors. Sharapova capped off the year with two wins in the Fed Cup final but was unable to win the title for Russia as her teammates lost their matches to gift the Czech Republic the win.
Sharapova announced that she failed a drug test for Meldonium on the 7th March of 2016. This definitely came as a huge shock to all of us, but this drug was only banned from the start of that year and was absolutely legal the rest of the time. Therefore, nobody would be able to take away her achievements as all her titles and wins were all well-deserved through her fight and determination and were all done legally.
Every single one of us would definitely look forward to the comeback of Maria Sharapova to see how her play would be affected without 15 months of match practice, and how the crowd would receive her. Entered into the Stuttgart Open for her first event back, Sharapova would play her first competitive match on 26th April 2017 after being cleared to play. Also, Sharapova received wildcards into major clay tournaments such as the Madrid Open and the Italian Open and looks to make a perfect comeback to tennis by performing well in all of these tournaments.Italian Open and looks to make a perfect comeback to tennis by performing well in all of these tournaments.