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Maria Sharapova

Making headlines in early 2006 for her her appearance in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the tennis champ - who just happens to look like a hot runway fashion model - was born in Nyagen, Siberia on April 19, 1987. Sharapova later moved with her family to the resort town of Sochi where at age four she was given her first tennis racket.

A naturally gifted player, she was later spotted in a Moscow tennis school by none other than Russian tennis champ Martina Navratilova, who urged her parents to help the young Sharapova persue a serious tennis career.

Maria Sharapova

It was only a few years later that Sharapova and her father found themselves arriving, unannounced, at the prestigious Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Miami, Florida. As the story goes, the young tennis wiz made a favorable impression by shooting a serve passed one of the school's coaches, knocking his hat off. A full scholarship quickly followed.

At 14, she began her tennis career on the junior circuit, and in the 2001 season won 25 out of 28 matches. She beat her own record with 26 victories out of 29 the following year. In 2003, Sharapova went on to enter the WTA professional women's circuit and in her first season won two professional titles: Quebec City and the Japan Open. By the end of the year she was ranked 32nd best player in the world.

Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title when she beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2004 and took the No. 1 spot from an injured Lindsay Davenport to become the top seeded female tennis player in the world.

She has won over $1 million dollars in earnings and is estimated to make another $15 million in endorsements in 2006. Chances are that figure could well increase after having taken New York by storm to win her first U.S. Open women's title in September 2006.


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