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London | Maria Sharapova says farewell to pro tennis

London | Maria Sharapova says farewell to pro tennis

Maria Sharapova announced her retirement from pro tennis by writing a farewell letter to the sport in Vanity Fair and Vogue on Wednesday, and while this news was not entirely unexpected, it nevertheless signalled the passing of an era.

 

I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis – I’m saying goodbye... There are a few simple things I’m really looking forward to: A sense of stillness with my family. Lingering over a morning cup of coffee. Unexpected weekend getaways. Workouts of my choice (hello, dance class!). Maria Sharapova

“Tennis—I’m saying goodbye,” she wrote. “In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it everyday.

“Tennis has been my mountain,” she added. “My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible.

“After 28 years and 5 Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain — to compete on a different type of terrain.

“That relentless chase for victories, though? That won’t ever diminish. No matter what lies ahead, I will apply the same focus, the same work ethic, and all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.”

The 32-year-old, who has been increasingly plagued by injury, also shared extracts of her essay on her Instagram.

Sharapova began her professional career in 2003, and quickly went on to become World No 1 for the first time just two years later.

She won 4 of her Grand Slam titles between 2006 and 2012, before adding a 5th and now final major when she won Wimbledon in 2014.

In March 2016, however, the Russian tested positive for banned substance meldonium and was subsequently banned for 2 years, although this was later reduced to 15 months.

At the time she claimed she did not realise it had been added to the banned list in 2015 and although the authorities accepted it wasn’t intentional doping, it did taint her career.

After returning to match play in 2017, Sharapova was hampered by injuries, including a chronic shoulder problem that needed surgery last year, limiting her to just just one last WTA tour win, taking home the Tianjin Open in China.

She retires ranked 373rd in the world after plummeting down the list.

Reaction to the former the World No 1’s decision to step away came thick and fast on social media, with many wishing the Russian, who has lived in the USA for most of her life, well in her future endeavours.


Maria Sharapova celebrates winning

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Bursting onto the world stage as a teenager, Sharapova became one of tennis’ biggest names in the game, winning her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17 when she defeated Serena Williams to become the 4th-youngest player to win an Open-era major behind Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and Tracy Austin.

On 22 August 2005 Sharapova became the first Russian woman to be ranked No 1 in the world, a spot she held 5 times during her career for a total of 21 weeks.

Aged 19, Sharapova claimed her 2nd Grand Slam title at the 2006 US Open and, until Bianca Andreescu’s 2019 US Open win, her victory against Justine Henin was the last time a teenager won a Grand Slam title.

Sharapova claimed her 3rd Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open, defeating Ana Ivanovic to win the major, and not dropping a set during her entire run.

With her 2012 French Open title, Sharapova achieved a career Grand Slam, winning each of the 4 majors, becoming the 6th woman to achieve the feat in the Open era behind Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams.

At the London 2012 Olympics, the only Games she competed in, Sharapova lost the final in another encounter with Williams.

The media often painted the two as rivals, and indeed in her memoir ‘Unstoppable: My Life So Far,’ Sharapova wrote: “I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon.”

On the court, however, it was a different story and the last time that Sharapova defeated Serena was at the WTA Finals in 2004 when she fought back in the final set to win.

In fact, out of their 22 lifetime encounters, Sharapova only won twice.

In 2014 Sharapova won her final Grand Slam title at the French Open, defeating Simona Halep in the final to claim her 5th major title and 2nd in Paris.


Maria Sharapova's last match appearance against Donna Vekic at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2020

© Hannah Peters/Getty Images

WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon released an official statement: “I congratulate Maria on her outstanding career in professional tennis.

“Her achievements of a career Grand Slam, winner of 36 WTA titles and reaching the coveted No 1 ranking reflect her deep dedication and passion for the game.

“She will be greatly missed by her millions of fans around the world, but I know this will also mark an exciting new beginning for Maria as she now focuses on her many business ventures, charitable activities and other outside interests.

“I look forward to following her successes in the years to come as she steps away as a true champion of our sport.”

Billie Jean King tweeted: “From the day @MariaSharapova won her first #Wimbledon title at age 17, she has been a great champion.

“A 5x major champion and a former World No 1, her business success is just as impressive as her tennis achievements.

“Maria, the best is yet to come for you! #MissYouMaria”

Sharapova retires as the 3rd-highest paid female player and the 8th-overall with career prize-money earnings totalling £30m, but she steered clear of yachts and big money purchases despite earning fortunes off court also and, instead, launched her own candy company, Sugarpova, in 2012, wise in the knowledge that tennis offers but a short career.

“When you’re young and you’re successful and you’re doing well and things are automatic for you in your life, you tend to think that that will continue for years on end,” Sharapova previously told CNBC.

“It’s important to also be realistic about what can happen tomorrow; about injuries; about someone leaving your company; about another company coming in and being a competitor of yours.

“Money ultimately doesn’t bring you the happiness that people from the outside might see.

“Of course, it allows you to buy more materialistic products, but all of those things are very temporary.”

In announcing her retirement, she said: “I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis – I’m saying goodbye.

“There are a few simple things I’m really looking forward to: A sense of stillness with my family. Lingering over a morning cup of coffee. Unexpected weekend getaways. Workouts of my choice (hello, dance class!).”

Sharapova added that her 6-1 6-1 first-round defeat by Serena Williams at last year’s US Open was the ‘final signal’.

“Behind closed doors, 30 minutes before taking the court, I had a procedure to numb my shoulder to get through the match,” she explained,

“Shoulder injuries are nothing new for me – over time my tendons have frayed like a string. I’ve had multiple surgeries – once in 2008, another procedure last year – and spent countless months in physical therapy.

“Just stepping on to the court that day felt like a final victory when, of course, it should have been merely the first step toward victory.”

Sharapova did not play again in 2019 after that defeat at Flushing Meadows, and has played just twice this year, including a straight sets loss to Croat Donna Vekic in the Australian Open first round, her last competitive appearance.




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