Image Source: Getty / Icon Sportswire
After 28 years on the court, five-time Grand Slam Singles champion Maria Sharapova is hanging up her tennis racket for good. The 32-year-old Russian-born athlete revealed in an essay published by Vogue and Vanity Fair on Feb. 26 that she is retiring from the sport she began at age 4. She named shoulder injuries as a key factor. "I'm new to this, so please forgive me," she wrote. "Tennis — I'm saying goodbye."
Maria won her first Grand Slam in 2004. She was 17 and claimed a victory over Serena Williams at Wimbledon. Two years later, she won the US Open, then the Australian Open in 2008 and the French Open twice (once in 2012 and a second time in 2014). She served a 15-month suspension in 2016 for testing positive for WADA-banned substance meldonium, which she said she wasn't aware had been banned, according to BBC. Maria most recently was a wildcard at the 2020 Australian Open, where she was eliminated after the first round.
"In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life."
One of the final signals that Maria's retirement was drawing near happened last August during the first round of the US Open, she said. She had to numb her shoulder just to get through the match, she explained (Maria went on to lose against Serena). "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," Maria wrote. "I share this not to garner pity, but to paint my new reality: My body had become a distraction."
Maria continued, "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."
A powerful section from Maria's essay reads, "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." She went on to say she's looking forward to being with her family, enjoying her morning cup of coffee, going on weekend getaways, and working out on her terms (she said she's excited to try dance classes in particular).
"Tennis showed me the world — and it showed me what I was made of," Maria concluded. "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."