Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, one of the most recognizable and highest paid sportswomen in the world, announced her retirement on Wednesday at the age of 32.
“Tennis – I say goodbye to you,” Sharapova said in an article for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines.
“After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, however, I’m ready to climb another mountain – to compete on a different kind of terrain.”
Sharapova burst onto the scene as a gifted teenager and won her Grand Slam before serving a 15-month ban for failing a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open.
The ranking of the former Russian world number one is currently 373rd.
Sharapova hardly played last year due to long-standing shoulder issues.
When she played she lost as many matches as she won and was knocked out in the first round at Wimbledon, the US Open and, most recently, the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Born in Siberia, Sharapova first bought a racket at the age of four in Sochi, where her Belarusian-born parents had settled after escaping the deadly clutches of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
She rose to fame as a Wimbledon winner at age 17 in 2004, the third youngest player to conquer the sacred grass courts at the All England Club.
“Tennis gave me life”
She became world number one in 2005 at the age of 18 and won the US Open the following year.
“One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward,” Sharapova said Wednesday.
“I believed if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an amazing place.”
But in 2007, Sharapova started her long battle with shoulder problems.
She would win the 2008 Australian Open before a second shoulder injury prevented her from touring for the second half of the season, missing the US Open and the Beijing Olympics.
In 2012, Sharapova, of Siberian descent, won the French Open to become the 10th woman to complete a Grand Slam career. She added Olympic silver to her resume that year.
His title at Roland Garros in 2014 was another high after a disheartening injury trough.
Other fitness issues followed before the explosive news that he tested positive for meldonium, a banned heart drug.
Always a fighter
Still a fighter – Seven-year-old Maria and her father Yuri left for the United States in 1994 with only $ 700 borrowed from their name – Sharapova returned to the sport in 2017.
“By giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me life,” Sharapova said in her retirement letter.
“I will miss it everyday. I will miss the training and my daily routine: waking up at dawn, lacing my left shoe before my right shoe and closing the court door before hitting my first ball of the day.
“I will miss my team, my coaches. I will miss the moments sitting with my dad on the training bench. The handshakes – win or lose – and the athletes, whether they know it or not, that made me do my best.
“Looking back, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path was filled with valleys and twists and turns, but the views from its top were amazing.
Sharapova had been the highest-paid female athlete in the world for the past 11 years until 2016, according to business magazine Forbes.
She alone raked in $ 38.8million (€ 35.7million) in a career in which she won 36 singles titles. Forbes, in her 2016 article, said the Florida-based Russian has collected nearly $ 300 million in awards, appearances and mentions since turning pro in 2001.
She has also established herself as an entrepreneur, launching her own line of candies, “Sugarpova”, and warned on Wednesday that her “relentless pursuit of victories … will never abate”.
“No matter what awaits me, I will apply the same goal, the same work ethic and all the lessons I have learned along the way.
“In whatever I can choose for my next chapter, my next mountain, I will keep pushing. I will still climb. I will still grow.