Billie Jean King was one of only a few to pay tribute to the Russian star, praising her capabilities both on and off the court. With five grand slams and an estimated net worth of £105 million, Sharapova can leave tennis with knowledge that she is one of its biggest success stories.
This fame and fortune is a far cry from where Sharapova started and surely not something she could have envisaged as a 6 year old moving to the USA with her father. They had less than 1,000 dollars and she slept on a pull-out couch. Her mother had to remain in Russia for the first two years due to problems with her Visa. By the age of 11, she had started to repay the faith shown by her family and was signed by Nike and IMG.
Six years later, she was in the final of Wimbledon.
Just 17 years old and she caused one of the most shocking upsets in sporting history. It was a win that would fling her into the public sphere and launch her illustrious career. In straight sets, she beat giant Serena Williams to take home the trophy. Just 17 years old. Later on she stated that at the time, she didn’t understand the “magnitude” of what she had accomplished. Nevertheless, the world realised and this was only the beginning.
Two years after her success at Wimbledon, she reached the final of the US Open. Her opponent was the Belgian, Justine Hennin, yet again Sharapova was victorious and won her second grand slam. 2008 saw her beat Ana Ivanovic for her third grand slam and in 2012 and 2014, she won her fourth and fifth. Perhaps the most recent two meant were more significant as they were both on clay surfaces which was arguably Sharipova’s weakness. She described herself as a “cow on ice” when on clay.
Nevertheless, injury problems and doping scandals have possibly restricted Sharapova. She has struggled with a shoulder injury since the age of 21 and despite surgery, had to play through immense pain. She speaks about struggling to look at pictures of herself on the court as it causes her to cringe when she remembers the agony that she was in. She also faced a fifteen month ban for testing positive for meldonium.
Despite all of this, there is no doubt that Sharapova has had a career worth celebrating. She could have bowed out with a farewell tour and final games in London, New York and Paris. She didn’t want this, instead preferring a well-written essay in Vogue and Vanity Fair announcing her departure. She writes about not being sure how to do this, not being sure how to say goodbye to what has been her life since she was 6.
She will not remain involved in tennis through coaching or managing, however, instead she looks forward to a well-deserved stillness, to relaxed breakfasts and coffees, and dance classes.