“How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known?,” wrote Sharapova. “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?
“I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis—I’m saying goodbye,” Sharapova wrote.
The 32-year-old became a household name at 17, when she defeated Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final. It would be one of just two victories the Russian would earn over the American—the other also coming in 2004, at the WTA Championships. In one of the tennis' most famous "anti-rivalries," Williams won 20 of their matches, the most recent a 6-1, 6-1 first-rounder at last year's US Open.
Sharapova battled a shoulder injury for most of 2019, a season in which she reached just one quarterfinal. The former No. 1 ended the year ranked No. 145, and lost matches to Jennifer Brady in Brisbane and Donna Vekic at the Australian Open, before calling it a career. She is currently ranked No. 373.
POST-MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE, AUSTRALIAN OPEN:
At last year's Italian Open, Nick Bollettieri, Sharapova's former coach, was asked if retirement was in the cards for his longtime pupil. ''Not yet," he said. "I think she's going to give it one more shot.''
Sharapova's career was marked by immense highs and lows. Two years after winning Wimbledon, she claimed her first hard-court major at the US Open, defeating Justine Henin in straight sets, and would win her second two years after that in Melbourne.
"In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life," Sharapova wrote. "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.”
Given Sharapova's success on fast courts, clay didn't figure to be where she'd twice strike Grand Slam gold. In referencing the surface most conducive to sliding, she famously called herself a "cow on ice." But in 2012, Sharapova completed an unlikely career Grand Slam by defeating Sara Errani in the French Open final. Two years later, she won a second French Open.
Then there were the downs, with her head-to-head mark against Serena one of them. But none were more newsworthy than Sharapova's admission that she had tested positive for the recently banned substance Meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, where she had reached the quarterfinals. A 24-month suspension—later reduced to 15 months—marked the beginning of the end for Sharapova's status as a bonafide threat on tour. She would reach just one more Grand Slam quarterfinal, at the 2018 French Open, and win just one more title, at the relatively minor Tianjin Open in 2017.
Sharapova, who turned pro in 2001, first reached No. 1 in August of 2005, and won a total of 36 singles career titles, 645 singles matches and more than $38 million in on-court prize money—to say nothing of her immense off-court earning power.
“There are a few simple things I’m really looking forward to," she wrote. "A sense of stillness with my family. Lingering over a morning cup of coffee. Unexpected weekend getaways. Workouts of my choice (hello, dance class!)"
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
The world reacts to Sharapova's retirement
Journalist Carole Bouchard:
I personally will miss Maria Sharapova on Tour a lot. She's always been the utmost professional with media. I was lucky through the years to see the funny side of her. She could be hilarious. And so smart. One of a kind. Someone who'll strive in everything she puts her mind to.— Carole Bouchard ???????? (@carole_bouchard) February 26, 2020
Tennis legend Billie Jean King:
From the day @MariaSharapova won her first #Wimbledon title at age 17, she has been a great champion.— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) February 26, 2020
A 5x major champion and a former World No. 1, her business success is just as impressive as her tennis achievements.
Maria, the best is yet to come for you! #MissYouMaria
Rafael Nadal Academy:
The Players' Tribune:
Former Top 40 player Ryan Harrison:
Tennis writer Kamakshi Tandon:
The best of Maria Sharapova -- great matches... 2005 AO vs Serena, 2007 WTA Finals vs Henin, great wins... iconic Wimbledon, the 2008 AO.— Kamakshi Tandon (@Kamakshi_Tandon) February 26, 2020