Sharapova is retiring from tennis at 32

  • >> Christopher Clarey, The New York Times
    Published: 2020-02-26 20:58:14 BdST

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FILE PHOTO: Russia's Maria Sharapova after her match against Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic. Tennis - Mubadala World Tennis Championship - Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - December 19, 2019. Reuters

Maria Sharapova, the tennis star who became one of the richest and most famous athletes of the 21st century, is retiring at age 32, worn down by injuries that hindered her as she tried to return to the top of the sport following a suspension for using a banned substance.

Sharapova, a tall and intense Russian who punctuated her flat groundstrokes with piercing shrieks, won five Grand Slam singles titles, starting with Wimbledon at age 17 in 2004, when she beat the No. 1 seed Serena Williams in a hard-hitting final. Yet Sharapova made an arguably more indelible mark off the court as the highest-earning women’s athlete for 11 straight years, according to Forbes. With endorsements from companies like Nike and Evian, she reportedly earned close to $30 million in 2015 before her suspension in 2016 knocked her down the game’s pecking order.

She was punished for using meldonium, a drug developed for heart patients that is said to improve blood flow and help athletes recover faster. Sharapova said she had been taking it for 10 years because of a magnesium deficiency, dizziness and a family history of diabetes. But she claimed to be unaware that the drug had recently been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances. Her suspension was cut from two years to 15 months on appeal, with an arbitration panel declaring that “under no circumstances” should she be considered “an intentional doper.”

Though Sharapova reached the semifinals of her comeback tournament in Germany, she struggled by her standards in her final two seasons, her lone win coming at a lower-level event in China in October 2017.

At the Grand Slam tournaments, she made the 2018 French Open quarterfinal, then lost in the first round of her last three majors. Barring a change of heart, Sharapova’s final tour-level match will have been a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Donna Vekic at the Australian Open last month.

She was set to announce her retirement Wednesday.

“Maria is very smart, very savvy and very professional, probably the ultimate professional,” Steve Simon, chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, said in a recent interview. “She’ll be remembered very well for what she brought to the game and I think everybody thinks of her as the ultimate competitor.”

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