Maria Sharapova came in as a transcendent young talent in the WTA scene as a teenager. And fast forward to exactly one month ago per our WTA 2020 news, the Russia native has decided to call it quits at the age of 32 after this year’s Australian Open.
“How do you leave behind the only thing 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 the fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?” wrote Sharapova in her heartfelt essay.
“I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis – I’m saying goodbye,” she added.
She ended her career that featured five Grand Slam titles and for a while she was on top of the WTA rankings. However, since her meteoric rise during her earlier years, it’s safe to say that Maria Sharapova wasn’t able to achieve her full potential.
Her retirement was oddly quiet. There were no farewell tours or a final moment in the spotlight, especially for someone who’s really used to the limelight with or without a racket on her hand.
Today, as we await for our sports to resume due to the coronavirus threat, SBOTOP takes a quick look into Maria Sharapova’s tennis career.
Her rise to stardom
A 17-year-old Maria Sharapova burst into the scene when she pulled off an upset against Serena Williams to win the Wimbledon in 2004.
She would beat Williams again in that year’s season-ending tournament and went up 2-1 in their head-to-head matchups. However, she never won against her since then – dropping the next 19 in a row.
Sharapova was at the peak of her powers in 2005. She was powerful at the baseline and she was known for her toughness and grit which led her to being the top-ranked WTA player at 18 years old.
She won the US Open in 2006 and then she collected an Australian Open trophy in 2008. At that time, Sharapova was very well on her way to bring home more trophies and be great.
Sharapova’s topsy-turvy pro career
But since her ascent to being one of the world’s best, the Russian’s pro career was riddled with injuries. She’s had multiple bouts in dealing with her shoulder and hamstring issues, which led her to fall out of the Top 5 in the world rankings since 2004.
After being fully recovered from her shoulder injuries, the Russian would struggle to find her form as she would suffer multiple losses against lesser known players in the earlier rounds of most tournaments.
But at the turn of the decade in 2011, Sharapova would find her way back in the Top 10 when she brought an iconic coach in Thomas Hogstedt.
After winning a couple of key exhibition matches that gave her a confidence boost, Sharapova would finally have a breakthrough year in 2012 where she would end up as the top-ranked player once more – which included a French Open championship (also in 2014) and a silver medal in the London Olympics.
She is one of the only six women in the professional era to win each major title at least once. Sharapova has made 10 Grand Slam Finals all in all, going 5-5.
The beginning of the end
In the 2016 Australian Open, Maria Sharapova tested positive for a banned substance called meldonium, giving her a two-year suspension.
The Russian appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, however, which reduced her ban to 15 months.
But since returning from suspension in 2017, Maria Sharapova managed to reach only one Slam quarterfinal. In fact, prior to her retirement last February, Sharapova was ranked as low as the 373rd best player in the WTA rankings.
She wasn’t at all favoured during the last Australian Open and she bowed out of the first round losing to Donna Vekic. After that, she told the world that she was done with her playing career.
“Tennis showed me the world – and it showed me what I was made of. 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 br growing,” said Sharapova in a post from her Twitter account.
With 36 singles titles, 645 singles matches, and more than $40-M in on-court prize purse, Sharapova’s career should be considered a success already as she’s achieved what most people couldn’t at the first place.
But even with her overall success, her tennis career will always be a tell-tale full of what-ifs.
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