FIVE-TIME GRAND SLAM WINNER MARIA SHARAPOVA RETIRES

One of the greatest women tennis players, Maria Sharapova has retired. According to the Daily Mail in UK, the Russian has given up the uneven struggle against injury and announced she has finished with tennis at the age of 32 in an emotional open letter in Vanity Fair.

After a career that yielded five Grand Slam titles, hundreds of millions of earnings and a reputation that became severely tarnished, she revealed her retirement through the pages of the magazine.

She will be remembered for her major wins, her relentless baseline hitting delivered with a piercing shriek and failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open. 

The 32-year-old Russian said: ‘How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known? How do you walk away from the courts you’ve trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love — one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys—a sport where you found a family, along with fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?

‘I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis—I’m saying goodbye. 

I share this not to garner pity, but to paint my new reality: My body had become a distraction. Throughout my career, ​Is it worth it?​ was never even a question — in the end, it always was.’ 

On Instagram, accompanying a photo of her as a young child on the tennis court, she added: ‘Tennis showed me the world — and it showed me what I was made of. 

MARIA SHARAPOVA CAREER CV 

Career high ranking: No 1

Current ranking: No 373

Career prize money: £30million

Total wins: 645

Total defeats: 171 

Total number of titles: 36

Grand Slam titles:  Wimbledon (2004), US Open (2006), Australian Open (2008), French Open (2012, 2014)

‘It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth.’ 

‘And so in whatever I might choose for my next chapter, my next mountain, I’ll still be pushing. I’ll still be climbing. I’ll still be growing.’ 

She burst to prominence by winning the 2004 Wimbledon final as a 17-year-old against Serena Williams, who was to become a bitter rival, even though the American ended up with a crushingly superior head-to-head record in their encounters.

The Russian was taken by her father to Florida as a child to hone her tennis game with the family having just $700 (£540) in hand. 

Nick Bollettieri was the man who created the idea of a tennis boarding school and he played a key role in Sharapova’s development into a future Grand Slam champion. 

Andre Agassi, Venus and Serena Williams and Martina Hingis all worked under Bollettieri to develop their game.  

The move to the United States was to make the most of her ability and the facilities in Florida even turned her into a French Open champion, despite being no natural on the clay courts. 

Happy to admit that she saw her peers as competitors rather than friends, she became known for her aloof attitude in the locker room.

There was little sympathy from fellow players, therefore, when she tested positive for newly-outlawed Meldonium after making the quarter finals in Melbourne four years ago.

She was to serve a 15-month ban and the record will show that she was never the same player without the assistance of the banned substance, failing to make the top 20 after her return in April 2017.

Sharapova has been a prominent figure off the court as well as on it, enjoying high-profile relationships. 

She dated Marron 5 singer Adam Levine in 2005 before later dating former Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Sasha Vujacic. 

Repeat shoulder issues, a long-standing problem, were among the injuries that plagued her and with a plummeting ranking she has decided to call it a day. 

She admitted that her 6-1, 6-1 humbling to Serena Williams at the 2019 US Open was the ‘final signal’ it was time to retire. 

‘Behind closed doors, 30 minutes before taking the court, I had a procedure to numb my shoulder to get through the match,’ she added. 

‘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.’ 

In a retirement interview with the New York Times, Sharapova revealed that she was due to meet Kobe Bryant, who had become a sounding board for her while she accepted her injuries, before he tragically died in a helicopter crash on January 26. 

Her last appearance at a Grand Slam saw her exit in the first round of the Australian Open, losing to Donna Vekic, and that ensured her ranking dropped to 373 in the world. 

She has played only twice in 2020, including that loss to Vekic in Melbourne. And for the former world No 1, her persistent shoulder injuries, and struggles to go deep into major tournaments, has pushed her to call time on her tennis career.  

Her boyfriend Alexander Gilkes paid tribute to the bravery of Sharapova in making the decision to retire. 

On his Instagram page, Gilkes wrote:  ‘To the kindest and most professional person I know, here is to you Maria, and all that awaits you in your next chapter! May you continue to inspire us all with your deep humility, self-depreciation, strength and focus. 

‘As a remarkable first chapter closes with so many extraordinary fetes, we look forward to all that you will accomplish with equal grit in the years to come. Proudly and lovingly.’ 

Part of Sharapova’s focus will now turn to business and managing her successful confectionery company, Sugarpova. The company was set up in 2012 and has become hugely successful. 

Her fragrance company ‘Maria Sharapova Beauty & Power’ is another lucrative area of her growing business portfolio. In 2018, Forbes estimated that Sharapova’s business empire was worth $195m (£151m).