Maria Sharapova has retired from tennis at the age of 32.
The former world No1 and five-time Grand Slam winner, who was arguably better known for her endorsements and activity off the court in her final injury-laden years, aptly announced her decision to quit in a first-person article published by both Vogue and Vanity Fair.
She said: “Tennis – I’m saying goodbye. I’ll miss it every day. I’ll miss the training and my daily routine. I’ll miss my team, my coaches, I’ll miss the moments sitting with my father… the handshakes – win or lose and the athletes, whether they knew it or not, who pushed me to be my best.
“My path has been filled with volleys and detours but the views from its peak were incredible. After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain – to compete on a different type of terrain.”
Sharapova announced her name on the world stage when she swept aside Serena Williams in straight sets to win Wimbledon in 2004 as a 17-year-old.
It suggested the dawning of a new era but would prove to be only one of two wins in 22 career encounters against Williams.
The Russian never won Wimbledon again but completed the rarity of a clean sweep of Grand Slams by winning the US Open (2006), the Australian Open (2008) and the French Open twice (2012 and 2014).
In all, she won 36 singles titles, clinched silver at the Olympics at London 2012 and won the Fed Cup with Russia 12 years ago. In addition, she spent a total of 21 weeks of her career at world No1.
But the latter part of her career was shrouded in controversy after being banned for two years – later reduced to 15 months on appeal – after testing positive for Meldonium, four weeks after it had become a prohibited substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Sharapova insisted it was merely an oversight by her team but, on her return, she never again came close to the same heights of the first part of her career – bar a solitary title in China in 2017 - as she was continually hampered by a shoulder injury.
Ahead of the final match of her career – a 6-3, 6-4 loss to Donna Vekic at the Australian Open – she had to have an injection just to play through the match. At the time of her retirement, she had sunk to the world No373.
Her on-court earnings were £29million while off court it was estimated that endorsements from big brands such as Nike and Evian had earned her as much a £20m in 2015 alone.
In announcing her decision, she 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?”
Sharapova took up the game at the age of four, coached by her father Yuri, but moved to Florida at the age of six at the suggestion of Martina Navratilova, who had seen her play in Moscow. The move led to her being temporarily separated from her mother Yelena.
Sharapova added: “One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward. I believed that if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an incredible place. But there is no mastering tennis, you must simply keep heeding the demands of the court.”