Teen triumphs, tussles with Serena, and colossal earnings: Maria Sharapova’s remarkable career in pictures Russian tennis icon Maria Sharapova has announced she is hanging up her racket at the age of 32, calling time on a gilded career in which she became a five-time Grand Slam winner.
Sharapova broke the news of her retirement in a heartfelt Instagram post to her fans on Wednesday, writing:
“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.”
As the tennis world reflects on the departure of one its all-time greats, we look back at Sharapova’s remarkable career in pictures.
Born in Russia, where she spent her early childhood growing up in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Sharapova took up tennis from the age of around four. With her burgeoning talent already clear, her family moved to the US as she continued to train in Florida.
Sharapova rose through the junior rankings, reaching the junior finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon Open in 2002, while her first season as a senior saw her pick up the WTA Newcomer of the Year honor.
But it was Wimbledon in 2004 where she was catapulted to superstardom, going on an incredible run to the final where she defeated defending champion and top seed Serena Williams.
Aged just 17, she became the third-youngest woman ever to win the title.
Sharapova’s rise continued after Wimbledon, and although she did not win another Grand Slam until the US Open in 2006, her consistency on the tour saw her rise to world number one in August 2005 – the first Russian woman ever to achieve the ranking.
It was a position she would also reach at several stages later in her career.
Her fame sparked the phrase “Maria Mania,” as the young star also became famous for the loud grunts she would let out during matches (supposedly reaching levels similar to a chainsaw).
More Slam joy
The next major milestone followed when Sharapova won the US Open in August 2006, beating Justine Henin of Belgium in the final.
After a barren Grand Slam year in 2007, during which she lost the Australian Open final to Serena Williams, Sharapova started 2008 with a bang in Melbourne, winning the title as fifth seed and without dropping a set.
The Russian defeated fellow youngster Ana Ivanovic in the final to win her third Major title and still aged just 20.
But despite returning to the world number one ranking later in the year, Sharapova’s 2008 season was cut short as a result of a shoulder injury – a sad sign of the injuries to come in later years.
Career Grand Slam
Sharapova struggled with form and injury for the subsequent seasons, although she reached the Wimbledon final in 2011, where she lost to Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.
Sharapova continued her pursuit of Grand Slam glory in 2012, again tasting defeat in a major final when she lost to Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in the season-opening Slam in Melbourne.
However, Sharapova finally completed a Career Grand Slam by adding the one Major missing from her collection by winning the 2012 French Open, defeating Italy’s Sara Errani in the final.
Sharapova later went on to be the Russian flag-bearer at the 2012 Olympics in London, where she won silver, losing to Serena Williams in the final.
Another French kiss
Sharapova struggled with more shoulder woes in 2013, also losing in that year’s French Open final against Serena Williams.
However, she staged a comeback in 2014, getting her hands on a second French Open title, beating Romania’s Simona Halep in three sets to pick up a fifth Major overall.
Sharapova started 2015 with the chance to add to her Grand Slam haul by reaching the final of the Australian Open, although she was again defeated by nemesis Serena Williams in straight sets.
That was part of a rivalry with Williams that would be hyped up by the press throughout Sharapova’s career, with the added spice of speculation that the pair disliked each other (Williams had allegedly vowed “never to lose to that little bitch again” after being beaten at Wimbledon in 2004) and that they also reportedly both dated men’s tennis ace Grigor Dimitrov.
On the court it ended up being a very one-sided rivalry, with Williams winning 20 of the 22 meetings between the pair.
As Williams continued to march to her 23 Grand Slam titles, the feud cooled between the duo, likely due to the lopsided nature of their contests.
2016 began with the bombshell news that at that year‘s Australian Open Sharapova had tested positive for the banned substance meldonium – a supplement she had taken for 10 years for various health issues, but which had that year been added to the list of banned substances by WADA.
Sharapova called a press conference in LA to announce the news, attempting to head off the scandal and also explain that administrative failings meant her team had failed to notice that the substance had been added to the banned list.
The Russian star was later handed a 15-month suspension from the sport.
Return and retirement
Sharapova eventually returned from her ban in April of 2017, going on to win the Tianjin Open in China later that year, marking her first WTA triumph since 2015.
She climbed back into the world’s top 30, but continued injuries meant increasing absences from the court as Sharapova failed to make inroads at Grand Slams in the way she once had.
This season, Sharapova lost in the first round of the Australian Open to Donna Vekic in straight sets, which turned out to be the final match of her career.
With her tennis talent and model good looks to match, Sharapova proved a marketers’ dream during most of her career.
The tall blonde signed lucrative endorsements with the likes of sportswear giants Nike as well as her own confectionary business, Sugarpova, which enabled her to top the Forbes rich list of the highest-earning women in sport for 11 years in a row.
Sharapova retires from the sport with an estimated $325 million in career earnings.
Her life outside tennis was also a frequent source of speculation as Sharapova was romantically linked to the likes of Maroon 5 heart-throb Adam Levine.
She is currently dating 40-year-old British businessman and friend to royalty Alexander Gilkes.
Despite retiring from tennis, it’s unlikely Sharapova will be disappearing from the spotlight anytime soon.