Maria Sharapova was just 18 when she was first dubbed world tennis number one.
15 years later, she’s calling time on her career after reaching that title five times, winning five Grand Slams, 36 titles and being named the highest-paid female athlete in the world for 11 consecutive years.
Aged 32, Sharapova says it’s time to say goodbye to the sport that “showed me the world,” telling Vanity Fair she is ready to “scale another mountain, to compete on a different type of terrain.”
But the tennis great’s career hasn’t just been about trophies and titles – long dubbed the “ice queen” by the world’s media – a drug scandal in 2016 saw the Russian champion’s career buckle, and since then she’s struggled to reach the same dizzying heights she once dominated.
WATCH: Maria Sharapova on the loneliness of sport.
A “lonely” childhood.
Four-year-old Maria Sharapova loved to play tennis.
Born in Russia in 1987, Maria and her father Yuri fled a tumultuous post-Soviet Russia for Florida after her parents were told of her potential in the sport, and were recommended she train abroad.
With just AUD $1,000 in his pocket, Maria and her father moved countries, leaving her mother behind. She wasn’t able to join them for more than two years because of visa restrictions.
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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.