“Oh, You cannot do this, Sharapova. How can she cover the court this quick?”
Sharapova is not the fastest. She doesn’t have a great movement. Her Forehand isn’t the strongest. She hates coming up to the net. Although she had one of the feared serves and it didn’t stay longer too. Blame her shoulders. What made her special?
Well, nothing mattered when she enters the court. She threw herself to every single challenge and defeated them all with ease. She knew how to construct points and win them all from the baseline. Her backhand was her USP and most importantly, her confidence and her attitude was her weapon.
She loved challenges right from her childhood. Her parents had to move to a nearby place because of the Chernobyl incident. The next year, she was born. Her father’s picked up tennis and at the age of four, Sharapova was already training. Navratilova noticed her and insisted to train abroad. The family took a gamble with $700 and without knowing the language, they moved once again, helped Sharapova to train. Due to visa restrictions, her mother couldn’t join her for two years. Her father had to do multiple jobs to run the family and also to help Sharapova train.
They never looked back or regretted the decision, thanks to Sharapova, who knew what she was doing. At 9, she was enrolled in IMG.
She slowly started making heads turn but the best beginning happened when she took down Serena Williams in the final of the Wimbledon and became the third-youngest woman to win a Grand Slam. Winning twice against the GOAT showed the talent she had and Serena Williams made up for everything and their head to head record is just nowhere near to be called as the rival.
But Sharapova had her moments. She had her days. She made it count with her grunt and grace. She became World Number one stayed there for weeks and won French Open twice, her least favourite surface, then US Open followed by Australian Open. But everything happened 12 years ago.
While she attracted sponsors and crowd and topped the list of Forbes for years, she also attracted shoulder injury that didn’t leave her at all. She operated torn rotator cuff once in 2008 another in 2019, had a damaged tendon and a small labrum tear. The shoulder only kept going worse.
On the way, she also picked up intersection syndrome in both the arms. The pain kept changing from left to right and only she knew the struggle.
To make things even worse, she was suspended for using a banned substance in 2016. The pain she was going through was huge. After her ban got over, she wanted to get back stronger but her old friend Shoulder injury was there before her. She couldn’t serve as fierce as she used to, her body wasn’t helping her.
Not many tournaments wanted to give her wildcards and if they gave her, the players who once were her friends started questioning the treatment. She was there alone, not knowing what to do.
Still, she kept coming back but things were different this year. She knew she is nearing her end in Tennis and the death of Kobe Bryant made it even clearer for her. She was supposed to meet him that same week he died.
Maybe, she wanted to live her life, try new things, and go behind the calling. She is letting go of her first dream, tennis, now. Life beyond tennis is going to be all about business and she might take up studies but it might not be as stressful as her tennis career.
While we are all thankful for what she has done to the game, her shoulders will be glad that they won’t be needing any more surgery as she will not be picking the racquet once again to torture it.
Tennis world is going to miss Sharapova, the fierce competitor who said no to quitting and kept coming back. She was that girl who had no fear.
Thank You, Sharapova.