Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova was born in 1987 in Siberia and moved to the Black Sea resort town of Sochi a year later. She was the only child in a family living well enough to play tennis and go skiing.

Her dad, Yuri, worked in construction and had a racquet in her hand by the time she was a toddler. At age 6 she attended a tennis clinic in Moscow and met Martina Navratilova, who advised that she start training professionally.

Soon afterwards Yuri and Maria left her mother, Yelena, behind in Russia and came to the U.S., traveling to its tennis mecca--Florida. Maria says she can't recall even discussing the move, only packing for it the night before. The trip was funded by loans from both sets of her grandparents.

"My parents weren't stupid," she says. "The conditions in Russia weren't the best for tennis." Her mother, unable to secure a visa, wouldn't rejoin her until two years later; if this separation hurt, Maria doesn't show it.