On July 3, 2004, teenager Maria Sharapova stunned the world when she defeated the legendary Serena Williams and became the first Russian woman to win the Wimbledon title.
Playing in her first Grand Slam final, the “Screaming Cinderella” produced a remarkable display of power and concentration as she conquered the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world.
The fearless Sharapova won in straight sets, 6-1 6-4, after a battle lasting just 73 minutes, against defending champion Williams. The grandstand was buzzing with excitement “Maria, we are with you” someone screamed out from the crowd in Russian.
Always nerveless on court, the 17-year-old beauty gave in to her emotions as she dropped to her knees and began to cry after her storming victory. "It's just a dream, it's all too unreal for me to take in,” she gushed. The triumph seemed unbelievable to a girl who has come from a small town in Siberia.
Winning the sacred sterling silver salver (commonly known as the "Rosewater Dish") and around $1 million in prize money, Sharapova made her way through the cheering crowd and embraced her father, who had made 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” said Maria later when addressing her father.
At a post-match press conference, Sharapova confessed that in the first minutes after her win, she received a call from Boris Yeltsin, who congratulated her on the victory. Maria also said that although she has been living and training in the US since she was young, she still “thinks in Russian” when on court. There was only one question – whether she had a boyfriend or not, Maria refused to answer, saying “I don’t comment on my personal life.”
Sharapova took the world by storm in winning the championship. A number of US television stations interrupted their programs during the day to announce the win. “Sharapova put on a virtuoso performance against the six-time Grand Slam winner. She showed no signs of nerves and kept Williams on the defensive,” UK newspaper 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.”
It was a truly fairytale triumph not only for her personally, but for women’s tennis in Russia.