One of the premier players in women’s tennis over the past couple of decades recently announced her retirement. News filtered through that Russian player Maria Sharapova is set to walk away from the game. The 32-year-old leaves the game with a career record of 645-171 after turning pro in 2001 at the tender age of just 14.
It is not a sport that you think of often in terms of attrition and burnout, but tennis is a craft that swallows up athletes at a young age and sees plenty of players – especially in the female game – retire from the sport while still in their twenties. To that extent, Sharapova beat the system of the game and this is especially true when you consider that despite some very significant injuries at the peak of her career, she was able to capture five Grand Slam titles.
Her lasting legacy in the sport will be those Grand Slam wins. She is one of just 10 women in the history of the game to win all four of the majors at least once, with the only repeated Grand Slam event win coming in the French Open. This is a little ironic as this premier player would often talk of how the clay courts of Roland Garros sought to expose here weaknesses, yet it was on the crushed rock that she was at her most successful.
Sharapova was at her best (weirdly) in even numbered years. The Grand Slam titles came in 2004 (Wimbledon), 2006 (US Open), 2008 (Australian Open,) and 2012/2014 (French Open). She also won an Olympic silver medal for Russia at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She reached another five Grand Slam finals that she failed to win, giving her a career record of 5-5 in such contests.
In a sport where the commercial deals have long gravitated towards the Williams sisters, Sharapova was – for a while – as big a star as there was in tennis – male or female. Her on-court career earnings have been dwarfed by here sponsorship opportunities, with the Russian perfectly summing up the ‘Strong is beautiful’ motto of the WTA. This premier player was one who quickly became known for her skill and her winning as opposed to her looks, with Sharapova being a feared and dominant competitor in every match she played when healthy.
Sharapova has the mindset of a premier player still wanting to compete, but the arduous and repetitive nature of practice and play has caused her body – in the shoulders and arms especially – to cause her to not play at the level she wishes. Retirement is a smart option at this point for her legacy, but the world of sport will be a little dimmer without Sharapova on the tennis scene.
Article by Premier Players