Maria Sharapova has revealed a shoulder procedure just 30 minutes before she was due to play Serena Williams at the US Open in 2019 was a signal her career was coming to an end.
On Wednesday afternoon, the former world No 1 revealed she was saying ‘goodbye’ to the sport after nearly 19 years on the WTA Tour.
The 32-year-old won five Grand Slam titles and achieved the career slam by winning every major.
But her career hit the rocks in 2016 when she failed a drugs test after testing positive for meldonium.
Sharapova was initially banned for 25 months but on appeal, it was reduced to 15 and she returned to action in April 2017.
However, Sharapova’s career was never the same, as she won just one title on her comeback.
After multiple operations on her shoulder and increasing doubts about making it back to the top of the women’s game, Sharapova says it became clear retirement was on the horizon as she prepared to play Williams on Arthur Ashe stadium in August.
She wrote in Vanity Fair: “One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward. I believed that if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an incredible place. But there is no mastering tennis—you must simply keep heeding the demands of the court while trying to quiet those incessant thoughts in the back of your mind.
“Did you do enough—and more—to prepare for your next opponent? You’ve taken a few days off—your body’s losing that edge. That extra slice of pizza? Better make up for it with a great morning session.
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“Listening to this voice so intimately, anticipating its every ebb and flow, is also how I accepted those final signals when they came.
“One of them came last August at the US Open Behind closed doors, thirty minutes before taking the court, I had a procedure to numb my shoulder to get through the match.
“Shoulder injuries are nothing new for me—over time my tendons have frayed like a string. I’ve had multiple surgeries—once in 2008; another procedure last year—and spent countless months in physical therapy. Just stepping onto the court that day felt like a final victory, when of course it should have been merely the first step toward victory.
“I share this not to garner pity, but to paint my new reality: My body had become a distraction.”
Williams would beat Sharapova 6-1 6-1 in a ruthless style, needing just 59 minutes.
In the 22 meetings between them, Williams won 20 of their matches and Sharapova’s two wins both coming back in 2004.
But Sharapova will always remember that first win, in the Wimbledon final as a 17-year-old, as the moment she burst onto the scene and put her on the path to become a multiple Grand Slam champion.
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