In an essay written for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines, five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova announced her retirement from the sport.
"I'm new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis...I'm saying goodbye"
Her 18-year career saw her play 802 matches with the last coming at the Australian Open 2020. Ever since her announcement of being suspended by the International Tennis Federation, Sharapova did not play a lot of tennis indicating a true battle while continuing to push herself for more titles or hang up the racket.
"Listening to this voice so intimately, anticipating it's every ebb and flow, is also how I accepted those final signals when they came."
Over the past three seasons, the Russian superstar and former world number one played 51 matches and won 29 of them. In 2019, Sharapova pulled out of many tournaments sighting a shoulder injury.
"One of them came last August at the U.S. Open. Behind closed doors, thitry minutes before taking the court, I had a proceedure to numb my shoulder to get through the match. Shoulder injuries are nothing new to me...over time my tendons have frayed like a string."
It appeared that that moment in her second to last Grand slam match would be her time to call it quits. Sharapova reflected on a long career that started when she watched her father play tennis on the court, and how during her journey across the world, everything was bigger and different than her time spent growing up in Sochi, Russia.
"The first courts I played on were uneven concrete with faded lines. Over time, they became muddy clay and the most gorgeous, manicured grass your feet could ever step on."
Sharapova reminisced about her first-ever Grand Slam final which came at Wimbledon in 2004 facing Serena Williams. The then Russian teenager seeded 13th, went on to defeat the American 6-1, 6-4.
"I was a naive 17-year-old, still collecting stamps, and didnt understand the magnitude of my victory until i was older...and I'm glad I didn't."
In speaking of Wimbledon, she wrote about her points of view of the US Open and how to overcome distractions and expectations.
"If you couldnt handle the commotion of New York...well the airport was almost next door. Dosvidanya."
The Australian Open, where she won in 2008 and was a three-time finalist, and how going to Melbourne was like being a completely different place on earth.
"The Australian Open took me to a place that had never been a part of me before...to an extreme confidence that some people call being "in the zone" I really cant explain..but it was a good place to be"
She also talked about Roland Garros where she won two championships in 2012 and her last ever in 2014, and how it was an unforgiving tournament to master.
"The clay at the French Open exposed virtually all my weaknesses..for starters, my inability to slide on it..and forced me to overcome them. Twice. That felt good."
Sharapova continued on about how the courts around the world shaped her career, and at times exposed her flaws. Being challenged by them opened up a new way to use them for her game instead of against it. She continued to speak of what tennis gave her and that she would miss playing on a professional level.
"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."
She mentioned the coaches and the team of trainers, masseuses, and doctors that helped her throughout her entire career. She expressed missing the handshakes with her opponents who she thanked for pushing her to be her best. Most importantly, she spoke of her first moments with her father on the court, just sitting on the court bench.
"Looking back now, I realize ttat tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from it's peak were incredible. After 28 years and five Grand Slams titles, though, I'm ready to scale another mountain...to compete on a different type of terrain."
Like anyone who retires from any sort of professional career, Maria Sharapova talked about the simple things in life that she would cherish going forward in her new chapter.
"I'm looking forward to: A sense of stillness with my family. Lingering over a morning cup of coffee. Unexpected getaways. Workouts of my choice (hello, dance class!)"
Closing her essay, the 32-year-old left the door wide open on what she would do in terms of major life changes. Aside from being CEO of her candy company Sugarpova, and chairman of the Maria Sharapova Foundation, the Russian had an open path ahead of her.
"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."Published 26 Feb 2020, 21:20 IST