Maria Sharapova, the Russian five-time Grand Slam champion who became one of the highest-paid sportswomen in the world, has announced her retirement from tennis.
Sharapova, who rose to prominence aged 17 by defeating Serena Williams to capture the Wimbledon singles title in 2004, eschewed the traditional press conference to publicise her decision.
Instead, she revealed the news in an article for magazine Vanity Fair.
“I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis – I’m saying goodbye,” Sharapova wrote.
Her decision to quit at the age of 32 comes as little surprise, following her struggles since returning in 2017 from the 15-month ban for taking prohibited heart drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
“Tennis – I’m saying goodbye.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 26, 2020
A star on and off the tennis court, Sharapova amassed a personal fortune estimated at $300 million.
But chronic shoulder problems have blighted the former world No.1; she has played only two matches this year, losing in the first round of the Australian Open, with her ranking falling to 373.
“Looking back now, I realise that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible,” she said.
“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’s parents, Yuri Sharapov and Yelena, are from Belarus. Concerned about the regional effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, they left their homeland shortly before Maria was born.
Sharapova first picked up a racquet at the age of four in Sochi.
Her father befriended Aleksandr Kafelnikov, whose son Yevgeny went on to win two Grand Slam singles titles and become Russia’s first world No.1 ranked tennis player.
At the age of six Sharapova attended a tennis clinic in Moscow run by Martina Navratilova, who recommended professional training at the IMG Academy in Florida, which had previously trained the likes of Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, and Anna Kournikova.
Sharapova’s father took various low-paying jobs to fund her lessons until she was old enough to be admitted to the academy.
Visa restrictions prevented Sharapova’s mother from joining them for two years.
Sharapova made her professional debut in 2001 on her 14th birthday, and played her first WTA tournament in 2002.
Tennis showed me the world—and it showed me what I was made of. 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. pic.twitter.com/kkOiJmXuln
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) February 26, 2020
She became the first Russian woman to reach number one in the rankings in 2005 and claimed the US Open title in 2006. She also won the Australian Open in 2008.
Known for her ferocious intensity and pounding groundstrokes, she completed her career grand slam when she won the French Open in 2012.
Sharapova also won at Roland Garros again in 2014, her last major title.
“It’s a shame, of course, because Maria was a role model for everyone,” Shamil Tarpischev, president of Russia’s Tennis Federation, told RIA news agency.
“Many girls compared themselves to her. She was number one for the popularisation of Russian tennis. Her image was huge.”
WTA Tour chairman Steve Simon added: “She will be greatly missed by her millions of fans around the world.”