New York, Feb 26: Russian tennis legend Maria Sharapova has announced her retirement from the sport in an emotional statement. The 32-year-old won five majors during her career including Wimbledon glory as a teenager in 2004.
Sharapova played under the banner of Russia with the Women's Tennis Association but she has lived in and been a United States permanent resident since 1994. She had been ranked world No. 1 in women's singles by the WTA on five separate occasions, for a total of 21 weeks. She is the only Russian, and one of ten women to hold the career Grand Slam.
The 6'2 feet tall athlete is also an Olympic medalist, having won a silver medal in women's singles at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Sharapova burst onto the scene as a supremely gifted teenager and won her Grand Slams before serving a 15-month ban for failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open. Sharapova shot to fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004, the third-youngest player to conquer the All England Club's hallowed grass courts.
In an exclusive essay written for Vogue and Vanity Fair, Sharapova said: "How do you leave behind the only life 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 fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?
"I'm new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis - I'm saying goodbye."
The emotional statement concluded: "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."
The Russian former world number one's ranking is currently 373rd. Sharapova has hardly played in the past year because of long-standing shoulder problems. When she did play she lost as many matches as she won and was dumped out in the first rounds at Wimbledon, the US Open and, most recently, the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Earlier on Tuesday (February 25), when reporters asked former French tennis player Mary Pierce about Sharapova's dismal show on the court, the two-time Grand Slam winner too blamed the latter's shoulder injury.
"She has been suffering from shoulder pain for quite some time and that is preventing her from doing well at the highest level," 45-year-old Pierce told media persons.
Sharapova, in March 2016 revealed that she had failed a dope test at the 2016 Australian Open after testing positive for meldonium, a substance that had been banned (effective January 1, 2016) by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). On June 8, 2016, she was suspended from playing tennis for two years by the International Tennis Federation.