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From the shadow of Chernobyl’s nuclear wasteland to international super-stardom and from penniless arrival in the United States, without a word of English, to a fortune of $200 million.
It may sound like the stuff of Hollywood dreams, but the story of Maria Sharapova, the world’s richest sportswoman, is a testament to the power of one individual to make it, whatever the odds.
And on Tuesday, the 29-year-old Russian’s rags-to-riches story appeared to be back on track after she appealed against a two-year ban for failing a drugs test at January’s Australian Open. Although her bid to have the ban overturned failed, it was cut to 15 months, paving the way for her comeback in April next year.
READ: Maria Sharapova’s ban reduced, can compete from April 26
Sharapova shot to international fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004 — the third youngest player to conquer the All England Club’s famous grass courts.
She would go on to win once in Australia and once at the US Open while claiming two titles at the French Open, despite famously likening her movement on Roland Garros’s crushed red brick as a “cow on ice.”
Siberia-born Sharapova first picked up a racquet at the age of four when she was living in Sochi, where her Belarus-born parents had settled after escaping the deadly clutches of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.