Taking her seat on the bench. Maria Sharapova is retiring from tennis after nearly 30 years and countless victories in the sport.
The 32-year-old athlete penned an emotional goodbye to the game that made her a household name for Vanity Fair on Wednesday, February 26, sending shock waves through the sports community. As she announced the end of her storied career, Sharapova reflected on the highs and lows she’s experienced as a professional athlete over the last few decades.
“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?” Sharapova began before officially “saying goodbye” to the tennis world.
The former Wimbledon winner continued, remembering traveling all over the world from her home in Sochi, Russia, with her dad by her side. Sharapova thanked her parents for their “enormous” sacrifices that allowed her to pursue a career in such a competitive sport, as she learned “how to overcome distractions and expectations” with each match she played.
“These courts revealed my true essence,” the French Open champion wrote. “They tested my character, my will, my ability to channel my raw emotions into a place where they worked for me instead of against me. Between their lines, my vulnerabilities felt safe … I never looked back and I never looked forward.”
Not all of Sharapova’s career was easy. In June 2016, she was suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation for testing positive for a banned substance, meldonium, at the Australian Open earlier that year. At the time, the Russian native felt the consequences were “unfairly harsh,” but she made the most of her time away from the court by enrolling in Harvard University’s business school. Her suspension was later reduced to 15 months.
“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it everyday,” Sharapova concluded in her tell-all Vanity Fair letter. “Looking back now, I realize 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.”