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MARIA SHARAPOVA used Vogue and Vanity Fair to announce her retirement, writing in an essay: “Tennis — I’m saying goodbye.”
The five-time grand slam champion and former world No 1 has struggled with chronic shoulder problems and has slumped to 373 in the rankings.
The 32-year-old wrote: “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.”
Sharapova will go down as one of the greats of the era — only Serena and Venus Williams have won more slam singles titles among current players.
But her impact on court was trumped by her profile off it, with the Russian the world’s highest-earning female athlete for much of her career.
She made herself a global star by winning Wimbledon aged 17 in 2004 and added the US Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 before twice lifting the trophy at Roland Garros, in 2012 and 2014.
Then in 2016 came the bombshell announcement that she had failed a doping test for the cardiac drug Meldonium, which had been added to the banned list at the start of that year.
Sharapova was banned for two years, reduced to 15 months on appeal. She returned to action in April 2017 but was unable to reach her previous heights, peaking at a high of 21 in the rankings and reaching just one more grand slam quarter-final.
Sharapova was restricted to eight tournaments last year and struck a pessimistic note about her future prospects after losing to Donna Vekic in the first round of the Australian Open in January in what turned out to the the final match of her career.
Sharapova cited last August’s US Open, when she lost heavily to Serena Williams in the opening round, as a “final signal.”
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