Clenched fist, true grit: Maria Sharapova is “saying goodbye” to tennis at the age of 32. It’s the end of the road for one of the biggest names in sport
Maria Sharapova is a global superstar and icon both on and off the court. But her sparkling career was tarnished by a drugs ban which cost her credibility from the sport she loved.
She made herself a global star when she dispatched Serena Williams – grunts and all – to win Wimbledon aged 17 in 2004.
She then added the US Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. After completing her career Grand Slam – the 10th woman to do so – in 2012 at Roland Garros, Sharapova regained the French Open two years later.
When Sharapova called a press conference in March 2016, the speculation was that chronic shoulder problems were forcing her to retire. Instead, she revealed she had failed a doping test for the cardiac drug Meldonium at the Australian Open in January having not realised it had been added to the banned list at the end of 2015.
Her career suffered a downward spiral. She was suspended for 15 months but, while authorities accepted she was not trying to cheat, the issue cast a cloud over her career.
Just a few days short of four years since that internet countdown, Sharapova has kept to her word by announcing her retirement through a glitzy version of notes in Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines rather than at a “downtown LA hotel with a fairly ugly carpet”.
Sharapova’s return to the sport in 2017 was met with resistance and, although she reached the semi-finals of her comeback tournament in Stuttgart, she struggled to return to past glories thereafter, peaking at a high of 21 in the rankings.
She missed six Grand Slams and was also plagued by thigh, wrist and more shoulder injuries, which ruined the final years of her glittering career.
Sharapova won just one more title – in Tianjin that year – while her best Grand Slam performance was a quarter-final spot at the 2018 French Open. There may have been no lower moment than her first-round retirement at Wimbledon against Pauline Parmentier in 2019 as she left the court in tears. It turned out to be her last match there.