Born in the Soviet Union of paternal Ukrainian heritage, Kirilenko is a good friend to fellow WTA players Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchová, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanović, Agnieszka Radwańska, Nadia Petrova, and Marta Domachowska.Kirilenko dated fellow Russian player, Igor Andreev for several years. In November, 2011, another fellow Russian, Washington Capitals hockey player Alexander Ovechkin announced on his Twitter account that he and Kirilenko were dating and posted a photograph of the two.
Maria Kirilenko started showing a passion for tennis at age 5, but it was difficult to get practice in while still attending school. Her father enrolled her in a tennis school, and hours of training started to pay off as she won several tournaments.
When Kirilenko was 12 years old, an Honored Master of sports, Elena Brioukhovets, saw her while training. Brioukhovets watched Maria making progress and offered to work with her. A three-year program was set up, and a special team selected. In less than three years, Maria became no. 1 in her age group and no. 2 in the 18-and-under group. The well-known tennis-players who had created an organization supporting young tennis players included Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Andrei Olhovskiy, and Max Mirnyi.
In 2002, Kirilenko became one of the youngest winners of the Canadian Open and US Open junior tournaments.
In 2002, Kirilenko started participating in WTA events. She began moving up the rankings, but was set back by an injury in 2004. At the end of 2005, she climbed back up the rankings and won her first title in Beijing. On 12 June 2006, she broke into the world's top 20 for the first time.
Kirilenko made her debut for Russia at the Fed Cup tournament in April 2006. In the World Group quarterfinal tie against Belgium, Kirilenko lost her singles match against 2005 US Open champion Kim Clijsters, but partnering with Dinara Safina, won her doubles match against Justine Henin and Clijsters. However, Russia ended up losing 3–2.
At the 2006 US Open, Kirilenko was seeded 20th and reached the third round, before losing to Aravane Rezaï.
2007In January 2007, she advanced to the third round of the 2007 Australian Open, before being defeated by third-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova. She then competed in the 2007 Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she advanced to the second round, upsetting world no. 15 Shahar Pe'er of Israel, before being defeated by Ai Sugiyama. She then competed in the Dubai Tennis Championships, where she reached the second round, before losing in a close match to Daniela Hantuchová.
At the Acura Classic in San Diego, California, Kirilenko upset second seeded Jelena Janković of Serbia to advance to the quarterfinals, before losing to fellow Russian Elena Dementieva. At the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles, she also reached the quarterfinals, upsetting sixth seed Marion Bartoli in straight sets.
Unseeded at the US Open, she defeated Martina Müller of Germany, and then 22nd seed Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia. She then lost to unseeded Julia Vakulenko of Ukraine. After the US Open, she appeared in the Sunfeast Open. There, Kirilenko won her second WTA Tour singles title, defeating unseeded Mariya Koryttseva of Ukraine in straight sets. The next week at a tournament in Seoul, Kirilenko, as the fourth seed also reached the finals, but lost to top seed Venus Williams.
At the Australian Open, Kirilenko reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in her career, beating sixth seed Anna Chakvetadze. Her next opponent was Daniela Hantuchová, to whom she lost, 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, after leading 6–1, 3–1.
Kirilenko then reached the second round of a Tier I event in Doha, beating Ekaterina Makarova, before losing to Anabel Medina Garrigues in three sets. Kirilenko then lost four matches in a row at Dubai, Bangalore, Indian Wells, and Miami. However, as the second seed, she reached the final of a Tier IV event at Estoril, where she defeated Iveta Benešová in straight sets. She also won the doubles title there, partnering with Flavia Pennetta. Kirilenko also won in Barcelona, defeating Martinez-Sanchez for her fourth career WTA title and the second of the year.Kirilenko played at the Tier III tournament in Cincinnati in August, where she was third seed. She reached the semifinals, where she lost to eventual champion Nadia Petrova. She partnered with Petrova as the second seed doubles team and beat the top seed pair of Hsieh Su-wei and Yaroslava Shvedova in the finals.
Kirilenko was seeded 27th at the Australian Open, but lost in the first round to unseeded Sara Errani of Italy in the tournament's first upset.
In the Dubai doubles tournament, Kirilenko partnered with Agnieszka Radwańska, and even though they were unseeded, they reached the final, eventually losing to Liezel Huber and Cara Black, the world no. 1 doubles pairing at that time.
At the 2009 French Open, Kirilenko was unseeded in the singles tournament, and lost to Olivia Rogowska of Australia in the first round. In the doubles tournament, Kirilenko and doubles partner Flavia Pennetta of Italy were seeded eighth. They made it to the third round, before losing to 11th seeded Anna-Lena Grönefeld of Germany and Patty Schnyder of Switzerland.
Kirilenko was unseeded at the 2009 Wimbledon Championships and made it to the second round, before losing to ninth seeded Caroline Wozniacki.
At the US Open, she made it to the third round, before losing to Li Na. She then competed in the 2009 Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, where she was the defending champion, but lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Kimiko Date Krumm.
Kirilenko began the year by competing in the 2010 ASB Classic, where she reached the quarterfinals, before losing to Shahar Pe'er. With a world ranking at that time of 58, Kirilenko was unseeded at the 2010 Australian Open, where in the first round she upset her friend, and former doubles partner, 14th seed Maria Sharapova, 7–6(4), 3–6, 6–4, in a 3-hour, 22-minute marathon. It was the second-longest women's match in Australian Open history. She advanced to the quarterfinals, before losing to Zheng Jie, who was also unseeded for this tournament. In the doubles portion, she and her partner, Agnieszka Radwańska, were seeded 15th and advanced to the semifinals, before losing to the world no. 1 pairing of Cara Black and Liezel Huber in three sets.
Kirilenko entered as 32nd seed at the 2010 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. She made it to the third round, before losing to second seeded Caroline Wozniacki.
Kirilenko participated in the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida as 32nd seed. Like Indian Wells, she advanced to the third round, before again losing to Caroline Wozniacki.
Kirilenko played in Rome in the 2010 Internazionali BNL d'Italia, where she was unseeded. She advanced to the quarterfinals, before losing to world no. 1 Serena Williams.
Kirilenko's entered the French Open as 30th seed. She advanced to the round of 16 here for the first time in her career, before losing to 17th seed and eventual champion Francesca Schiavone. In the doubles draw of the French Open, Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwańska were seeded 11th. They reached the quarterfinals, before losing to the eventual champions Serena and Venus Williams in straight sets.
At Wimbledon, she was 27th seed in the singles draw. She advanced to the third round, before losing to eighth seed Kim Clijsters. Kirilenko also paired up with Agnieszka Radwańska in the doubles draw, where they were seeded tenth.
Kirilenko made the quarterfinals of the 2010 Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California. before losing to Agnieszka Radwańska. She entered the doubles tournament with Victoria Azarenka, but they lost in the semifinals.
She then reached the second rounds of 2010 Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open and the 2010 Rogers Cup, losing to Vera Zvonareva and Victoria Azarenka, respectively. Then at the 2010 Pilot Pen Tennis, she reached the semifinals, before losing to Nadia Petrova.
She reached the third round of the 2010 US Open, losing to 11th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.
She then reached the second rounds of 2010 Hansol Korea Open, losing to former world no. 1 Dinara Safina, and 2010 Toray Pan Pacific Open, losing to Flavia Pennetta. At the last Premier Mandatory event of the year, the 2010 China Open, she lost in the third round to eventual finalist and compatriot Vera Zvonareva. In the 2010 HP Open, she retired in the second round due to a left hip injury against Chang Kai-chen after losing the first set 4-6. Kirilenko reached the final of the 2010 Kremlin Cup, where she fell to Victoria Azarenka.
Kirilenko ended the 2010 season ranked no. 20 in the world.
She competed at the Hong Kong Tennis Classic and won the Gold Group Championship with her compatriots Vera Zvonareva and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. At the Australian Open, she failed to defend her quarterfinal points by being knocked out in the second round. However, in the doubles competition, she reached the final, partnered with Victoria Azarenka, but lost to Pennetta and Dulko. She then fell early in the 2011 PTT Pattaya Open and 2011 Dubai Tennis Championships. She then reached the third round of both 2011 BNP Paribas Open and 2011 Sony Ericsson Open losing to Agnieszka Radwańska in both occasions. She then suffered three loses in a row in the second round of 2011 Family Circle Cup, and the first rounds of 2011 Mutua Madrid Open and 2011 Internazionali BNL d'Italia. However, she won doubles at the Mutua Madrid Open with Victoria Azarenka. At the 2011 French Open, she reached the fourth round losing to Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 2-6, 6-4
She then fell in the first round of 2011 UNICEF Open to Kimiko Date-Krumm, However she rebounded by reaching the third round of the 2011 Wimbledon, evenutally being stopped by the seventh seeded Serena Williams. She then failed to win back-to-back matches falling in the second rounds of 2011 Bank of the West Classic, 2011 Mercury Insurance Open, first round of 2011 Rogers Cup, and the second rounds of 2011 Western & Southern Open and 2011 Bank of the West Classic. She then rebounded at the 2011 US Open falling to eventual champion Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-7(15), 6-3 in the fourth round.
She then reached her first semifinal of the year at the 2011 Guangzhou International Women's Open to Chanelle Scheepers 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. She then played at the 2011 Toray Pan Pacific Open and the 2011 China Open, where she defeated Samantha Stosur in three sets in both occasions in the second round, she also fell in the quarterfinals on both events losing to Vera Zvonareva and Monica Niculescu, respectively. She the played her last tournament of the year at the 2011 BGL Luxembourg Open, where she had to withdrew in the second round due to an ankle injury.
Kirilenko is an aggressive baseliner, with both power and angle in her shots. She also has good speed around the court and can switch quickly between offensive and defensive play. Her forehand is her preferred shot, often setting up points and a great asset towards her game. Unlike many female players in recent years, Kirilenko is not afraid to come to the net. Her volleying skills are considered exceptional, as she utilizes a drop volley, angled volley, and half volley all very well to quickly end the rally.
In 2006, Kirilenko was selected to be the face of Adidas by Stella McCartney tennis range, designed by noted British fashion designer Stella McCartney and has played exclusively in the gear since the 2006 Australian Open. In 2009, she was replaced by Caroline Wozniacki.
Like her good friend Maria Sharapova, she likes connecting athletics and fashion, and when she spoke to Teen Vogue in August 2006, she said of being dressed by McCartney for a banquet, "I felt so glamorous!" She appeared in the 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition alongside Daniela Hantuchová and Tatiana Golovin in a pictoral entitled Volley of the Dolls.