Sharapova retires from tennis: ‘I’ll miss it’

Former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova retired from professional tennis on Wednesday, ending a 19-year journey that included a career Grand Slam.

“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life,” Sharapova, 32, wrote in an essay announcing her retirement published by Vanity Fair. “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.”

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

In her essay, Sharapova described her introduction to the game at age 4, watching her father play in Sochi, Russia, and the meteoric rise that followed. She made her professional debut on April 19, 2001 — her 14th birthday — and won her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2004. En route to the title, she defeated former champion Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals and upset Serena Williams in the final.

“I was a naive 17-year-old, still collecting stamps, and didn’t understand the magnitude of my victory until I was older — and I’m glad I didn’t,” she wrote. She played that season with a rotator cuff injury and later had surgery, the first of many injuries to hamper her career.

She reached No. 1 on Aug. 22, 2005.

In all, she won 36 WTA tour titles and nearly $39 million in prize money. Her career record on tour is 645-171.

In what would be her final match, Sharapova lost in the opening round of the Australian Open in January to Croatian Donna Vekic, 6-3 6-4.

Sharapova won the U.S. Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008, and two French Open titles — 2012 and 2014. Representing her native Russia, she also won the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, losing to Williams in the final.

Williams thwarted numerous Grand Slam opportunities for Sharapova, defeating her in the finals in Australia in 2005, ’07 and ’15, at Wimbledon in 2010 and at Roland Garros in 2013. In her career, Sharapova beat Williams just three times, losing 20.

Sharapova was suspended for two years — later reduced to 15 months — in 2016 after she tested positive for meldonium, which she said she had taken for years. The World Anti-Doping Agency later placed it on the banned substances list.

She didn’t reveal her post-retirement plans in the essay but clearly was looking forward to some time without the rigors of tennis.

“No matter what lies ahead, I will apply the same focus, the same work ethic, and all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

“In the meantime, there are a few simple things I’m really looking forward to: A sense of stillness with my family. Lingering over a morning cup of coffee. Unexpected weekend getaways. Workouts of my choice (hello, dance class!).”

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)

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