Novak Djokovic told the crowd at the Dubai Championships to give Maria Sharapova a round of applause after the WTA star revealed she was retiring from the sport. After struggling with injury, which left her languishing at 373 in the world, Sharapova has decided to leave tennis at the age of 32.
Her announcement came just hours before Djokovic’s second-round match at the tournament against Philipp Kohlschreiber.
And the world No 1 was in blistering form as he swept aside Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-1 in just 59 minutes.
After the match, Djokovic was asked to comment on Sharapova and the Serbian took time to pay tribute to the five-time Grand Slam champion.
He said: “I would like everyone to give her a big round of applause for everything she has done in her career. She deserves it, definitely.
“She’s a great fighter. As dedicated as someone can really be in our sport.
“The will power and the willingness to overcome all of the obstacles she had especially in the last five or six years with injuries, surgeries and trying to fight back and come back to the court and play on her desired level is truly inspirational to see what a mind of the champions she has.
“I’m sorry that it had to end with an injury but at the same time she had a fantastic career, she can be proud of herself.”
Sharapova’s decision was revealed in a heartfelt article in Vanity Fair where she explained that her body “had become a distraction” because of the ongoing injuries she was dealing with.
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She said: “How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known? How do you walk away from the courts you’ve trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love—one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys—a sport where you found a family, along with fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?
“I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis—I’m saying goodbye.
“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.
“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 U.S. 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.
“Throughout my career, Is it worth it? was never even a question—in the end, it always was. My mental fortitude has always been my strongest weapon. Even if my opponent was physically stronger, more confident—even just plain better—I could, and did, persevere.
“I’ve never really felt compelled to speak about work, or effort, or grit—every athlete understands the unspoken sacrifices they must make to succeed. But as I embark on my next chapter, I want anyone who dreams of excelling in anything to know that doubt and judgment are inevitable: You will fail hundreds of times, and the world will watch you.
“Accept it. Trust yourself. I promise that you will prevail.”
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