Dubai: The end to her playing career was somewhere around the corner surely - but Maria Sharapova’s retirement is certain to leave her legion of diehard fans in mourning today. “Tennis - I’m saying goodbye,” said the world’s most recognisable sportswoman, who had been a former world No.1 and boasts of five grand slam titles as she plans to plunge fulltime into her world of family, endorsements and entrepreneurship.
Unlike the sombre announcement in 2016 when she admitted the use of drugs in a press conference and invited a 15-month ban, the tennis diva chose to make the announcement in a signed article for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines. “After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain - to compete on a different type of terrain,” she said.
For someone who once was a top-bracket performer for long, Sharapova’s current ranking was an embarassing 373 - not a surprise as she hardly played last year because of long standing shoulder problems. She was dumped out in the first rounds at Wimbledon, US Open and most recently, the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The Russian shot to fame as a gangly 17-year-old when she won the Wimbledon in 2004, becoming the third-youngest player to conquer the All England Club’s hallowed grass courts. She became world number one in 2005 and won the US Open the next year. “One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward,” Sharapova said on Wednesday.
“I believed that if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an incredible place.”
Her success on courts, combined with the legendary good looks made her the darling of the endorsement sector soon - while her net worth is valued at $ 196 million now. A lover of luxury cars, Sharapova boasted of nine luxury cars worth $3 million which includes brands like Mercedes Benz, Range Rover, Audi, and Porsche. Maria. She also owns a luxury home at Longboat Key, Florida which she bought in 2015, the estimated value of the property being $8 million. Her famous brand of candy line ‘Sugarpova’ now has a presence in Dubai as well.
It was way back in 2007 that Sharapova began her long on-off battle with shoulder trouble. She won the 2008 Australian Open before a second shoulder injury kept her off tour for the second half of the season, missing the US Open and Beijing Olympics.
In 2012, she captured the French Open to become the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam. She added Olympic silver to her resume that year while her 2014 French Open title was another high after another injury low.
However, things reached a new low with the bombshell announcement of her positive drug test for banned heart drug meldonium. She returned to the sport soon after completing her ban in 2017 but failed to match up to her earlier standards.
“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life,” Sharapova said in her retirement piece. “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.
“Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible.”
Residence: Bradenton, Florida, U.S.
Born: April 19, 1987 (age 32) Nyagan, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Height: 1.88 m
Turned pro: April 19, 2001
Retired: February 26, 2020
Playing style: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Coach: Riccardo Piatti (2019-)
Career prize money: $38,703,609 (3rd in all-time rankings)