Maria Sharapova 'says goodbye' to tennis as she announces her retirement
26 February 2020, 16:10 | Updated: 26 February 2020, 16:14
Former world number one Maria Sharapova has announced her retirement from tennis at the age of just 32.
The five-time grand slam champion made the decision after suffering from chronic shoulder problems and slumping to 373 in the world rankings.
Sharapova wrote in an emotional Vanity Fair essay: "Tennis - I'm saying goodbye."
She 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."
The Russian-American star said her "body had become a distraction" following multiple surgical procedures and injuries.
She added: "In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it everyday. I’ll miss the training and my daily routine ... I’ll miss my team, my coaches."
Sharapova has been one of the greats of her era, with only Serena and Venus Williams winning more slam singles titles, out of the current crop of players in the women's game, than the 32-year-old.
Her profile off the court was equally as impressive, with the Russian-American star being the world's highest-earning female athlete for much of her career, amassing just shy of $39million in prize money throughout her career.
At the age of just 17, Sharapova took the tennis world by storm after beating reigning Wimbledon champion Serena Williams in straight sets 6-1 and 6-4, becoming the third-youngest women's champion in the tournament's history.
She added the US Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 before twice lifting the trophy at France's Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014.
Sharapova is one of just 10 women to win all four grand slam singles titles.
However, in 2016, the former world number one became embroiled in a drug scandal.
After failing 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.
Last year saw the tennis star limited to just eight tournaments, with her final match coming against Donna Vekic in the first round of the Australian Open in January, which she lost in straight sets.
Sharapova cited last August's US Open, when she lost heavily to Serena Williams in the opening round, as a "final signal."
She wrote: "Behind closed doors, 30 minutes before taking the court, I had a procedure to numb my shoulder to get through the match.
"Shoulder injuries are nothing new for me - over time my tendons have frayed like a string. I've had multiple surgeries - once in 2008, another procedure last year - and spent countless months in physical therapy.
"Just stepping onto the court that day felt like a final victory, when of course it should have been merely the first step toward victory. I share this not to garner pity, but to paint my new reality: My body had become a distraction."