Five times Grand Slam singles champion, including the 2006 US open, former World No. 1, and Olympic Silver Medalist tennis player Maria Sharapova retired after 28 years of career. It was announced by Sharapova herself in a column she wrote for Vogue and Vanity Fair. Certainly, retirement is not something elite athletes look forward in their careers, but Maria Sharapova shows herself very optimistic for what the future holds. As she wrote “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.”
Sharapova’s career started from a very young age. She played in her first Women’s Tennis Association tournament (WTA) at the age of 14, then joined the professional tour full time in 2003, playing most of that season at age 16. Larger successes came quickly when, in 2004, she won her first major, taking the Wimbledon title in straight sets over Serena Williams, becoming the third-youngest woman to win Wimbledon. Over time, however, injuries and surgeries pushed Sharapova down the rankings. She suffered a forearm injury that kept her out of the 2016 Qatar Total Open, and last August at the US Open she had a procedure to numb her shoulder to get through her first match. Sharapova includes this as one of the moments when she realized her time in tennis was coming to an end, as her body became a distraction.
After many years of making tennis her number one priority, she has already made other plans which include study architecture, focus on her candy businesses, and spending more time with long-time boyfriend, British businessman Alexander Gilkis. During the interview for Vanity Fair, Sharapova makes clear that, “No matter what lies ahead, I will apply the same focus, the same work ethic, and all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way”. This is a fine example of the ways this elite athlete has been able to connect different meanings provided in sports which will be applied in a different social and cultural context. Research on termination or changing sports participation indicates that it usually occurs with the same interactive and motivational processes that were once responsible for staying involved in sports (Malcom, 2012). And there is no doubt Sharapova is more motivated than ever to immerse herself in a variety of fields, to continue growing as a professional and as a person.
Sharapova finished her tennis career having played in more than 800 matches, winning a total of 36 singles career titles, and more than $38 million in on-court prize money. She demonstrates that end of sports participation is part of changes in life courses and that is OK. For certain, Maria Sharapova is ready to take on an active participation on one of the most important game called “life”.