Sharapova exploded onto the world stage in 2004, when at just 17, she won Wimbledon, beating Serena Williams in the final.
From there, her tennis career moved from strength to strength, she became World No.1 in 2005 and went on to claim five grand slam titles in total – two at the French Open, Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the US Open. She also won a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Sharapova will be remembered as one of the greats of the era – only the Williams sisters have won more titles among current players.
In her essay for Vanity Fair, Sharapova wrote about tennis being the only life she’d ever known and that she knew it was time to leave it behind and take on new challenges.
“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it everyday,” she wrote. “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.”
“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. After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain – to compete on a different type of terrain.
“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.”
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
Sharapova’s retirement comes against the backdrop of an ongoing shoulder injury and a dark turn in 2016, when she tested positive for meldonium, a performance enhancer and was initially banned for two years.
Her ban was reduced to 15 months after she claimed she had been taking meldonium for health issues for the better part of 10 years, not realising it was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list.
In a career often blighted by injury, Sharapova won 36 titles, hit World No. 1 five times and earned $US38.7 million in prize money – a figure dwarfed by her earnings from endorsements and sponsorships.
For 11 years in a row, Forbes magazine rated her the highest-earning female athlete in the world.