Maria Sharapova announces retirement from tennis

Hannah Wilks:

Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, one of the biggest stars in the game, has announced her retirement from professional tennis following a series of injuries.

After struggling with injuries, especially in her always problematic right shoulder and both forearms, over the past couple of seasons, former world no. 1 Sharapova has decided to say ‘goodbye to tennis’.

Sharapova announced her retirement in an essay written for Vogue and Vanity Fair. She wrote:

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

One of only ten women to complete the career Grand Slam, Sharapova became a fully-fledged star at the age of 17 when she won Wimbledon in 2004, stunning Serena Williams in the final and swiftly becoming a household name.

Sharapova celebrates winning Wimbledon in 2004 at the age of 17 (PA Images)

 

Sharapova went on to win the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008, but shoulder injuries dogged her since 2007 and she underwent surgeries in 2009.

It forced a retooling of her game and Sharapova, who once described herself as a ‘cow on ice’ when playing on clay, became most successful on that surface, winning the French Open in 2012 and 2014.

Sharapova transformed herself into a powerhouse on clay (PA Images)

 

Sharapova won 36 career singles titles in all, including the WTA Finals in 2004, and was the highest-paid sportswoman in the world for 11 consecutive years.

For many her career remains clouded, however, by the drug test she failed at the 2016 Australian Open and her subsequent 15-month suspension.

Sharapova returned to the sport in May 2017 and won the final title of her career at the Tianjin Open in September of that year.

She made it as high as world no. 22 in the rankings on her return, but struggled constantly with injuries. In 2019, she played just 15 matches, ending her season with a 1-6, 1-6 defeat to Williams at the US Open.

In her essay, Sharapova reveals that she required painkilling intervention just to get through the match and describes the experience of stepping on court as one of the ‘final signals’ that she was coming to the end of her tennis career:

Behind closed doors, thirty minutes before taking the court, I had a procedure to numb my shoulder to get through the match. 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 onto the court that day felt like a final victory, when of course it should have been merely the first step toward victory. I share this not to garner pity, but to paint my new reality: My body had become a distraction.

Sharapova shakes hands with Donna Vekic after losing what would turn out to be her last professional match Credit Image: © Sydney Low/CSM/Sipa USA)

 

Sharapova played at the Brisbane International and the Australian Open in January, losing to Jennifer Brady and Donna Vekic respectively.

The Russian reportedly made the decision to retire after returning to L.A. after her defeat to Vekic in Melbourne.

Sharapova wrote:

In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it everyday. I’ll miss the training and my daily routine: Waking up at dawn, lacing my left shoe before my right, and closing the court’s gate before I hit my first ball of the day. I’ll miss my team, my coaches. I’ll miss the moments sitting with my father on the practice court bench. The handshakes—win or lose—and the athletes, whether they knew it or not, who pushed me to be my best.

The Russian posted a quote from the essay on Instagram alongside a photo of herself as a child:

Maria Sharapova’s career highlights

Won 5 Grand Slam titles (Wimbledon 2004, US Open 2006, Australian Open 2008, French Open 2012, 2014)

One of only 10 women, and only Russian, to compete the career Grand Slam

Reached five additional Grand Slam finals

Won 36 total career titles

Champion at the season-ending WTA Finals in 2004

Olympic silver medalist (London 2012)

Career prize money of $38,703,609 (third in all-time list)

Spent 21 weeks as WTA world no. 1