Russian five-time Grand Slam champion, Maria Sharapova, has parted ways with her only career after 28 years at the age of 32.
Siberia-born Sharapova, whose Wimbledon victory over Serena Williams in 2004, aged 17, propelled her to superstardom and riches, announced she was ending her Tennis career in an article for magazine Vanity Fair.
“I’m new to this. So, please forgive me. Tennis —- I’m saying goodbye,” Sharapova, whose rags to riches story captivated the sports world but turned sour when she was banned for doping, wrote in a farewell article.
Her decision to quit is hardly a major surprise.
The US-based player who became one of the highest-paid sportswomen in the world also took to her social media to make the announcement.
“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.
“Tennis—I’m saying goodbye,” she captioned a picture of her at the beginning of her career.
She has been a pale imitation of her former self since returning in 2017 from the 15-month ban for taking prohibited heart drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
The former world number one has played only two matches this year, losing in the first round of the Australian Open, with her ranking sliding to 373.
A torn rotator cuff in 2008 required surgery and she was out for six months, dropping her outside the top 100.
Showing the tenacity that marked her career, she battled back though and her two French Open titles on a claycourt surface she once loathed earned Sharapova admiration.
Her career took a dark turn in 2016.
After an 18th consecutive defeat by Serena Williams, in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, Sharapova failed an anti-doping test.
She was initially banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Sharapova claimed she had not realised that meldonium, which she said she had taken for health issues throughout her career, had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list.
Her ban was eventually reduced to 15 months, and she returned to action in April 2017 after being handed wildcards at several events, which drew criticism from some fellow players.
Later that year she won the Tianjin Open, the last title of a storied career which earned her $38.7 million in prize money.
It was a figure dwarfed by off-court earnings which, according to Forbes, made her the highest-paid female athlete for 11 years in a row.
The all-too-frequent career breaks gave Sharapova time to establish a confectionary company called Sugarpova, from which some of the proceeds go to the Maria Sharapova Foundation.
It was a charity set up to help victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident from which her parents fled.
While that will keep her busy, Sharapova said the thrill of competition will be missed.
“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life,” she said. “I’ll miss it every day, I’ll miss the training and my daily routine.”