“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.”
Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova announced her retirement from the sport after playing for almost three decades in a heartfelt essay exclusively released on Vogue.com Wednesday, February 26. Often lauded as one of the most successful female athletes and overall tennis player in the world, Sharapova’s exit is bittersweet as she describes her journey with the sport, from the first time she saw a court at the age of four in Russia with her father to her many victorious tournament experiences.
“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it every day,” Sharapova wrote. “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.”
Moving to the US when she six to enroll at a tennis academy and dedicate time to training, Sharapova quickly honed her skills and was only 17 years old when she emerged victorious against expected winner Serena Williams at Wimbledon. While this underdog story catapulted her to international stardom, it was the number one world ranking and 36 career wins—including the US Open, Australian Open, and French Open—that cemented this Olympic Silver medalist to household name status.
However, repeated shoulder injuries and multiple surgeries in recent years meant the Russian athlete’s “body had become a distraction.” After a few unsuccessful attempts at becoming a reigning champion once again that she openly describes in her autobiography Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Sharapova has now decided to bid farewell to the sport that she describes as her “mountain” and looks forward to discovering the next mountain she will scale.
“Tennis showed me the world—and it showed me what I was made of. It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth. 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.”