“Tennis — I’m saying goodbye,” 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, 32, became a pro player in 2001 at 14 years old. It was just three years later, in 2004, when she beat Serena Williams to win the Wimbledon title, and in 2005 she became the No. 1-ranked player in women’s tennis. Other memorable moments include championships at the US Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and the French Open in 2012 and 2014.
The tennis star has been a Nike athlete throughout her career, wearing and creating her own product with the brand through the years. In 2010, she extended the contract with Nike by eight years for a reported $70 million. Her Swoosh endorsement deal, among others, made her the highest-paid female athlete for 11 straight years, until losing her spot to Serena Williams in 2016.
The drop came at a controversial point in Sharapova’s tennis career when she failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January 2016. Nike suspended its contract with Sharapova hours later, but eventually stood by their star after the International Tennis Federation said she would be banned for two years after testing positive for the banned drug meldonium.
“The ITF tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules,” the athletic giant said in a statement in June 2016. “Maria has always made her position clear, has apologized for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban. Based on the decision of the ITF and their factual findings, we hope to see Maria back on court and will continue to partner with her.”
The ban was shortened to 15 months and Sharapova made her return to tennis on April 26, making her 2017 debut at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany.
Since then, plagued by multiple injuries, Sharapova managed to reach only one major quarterfinal, which was the French Open in 2018. She will retire at No. 373 with a 645-171 singles record that included 36 titles.
Following the news of her retirement, Nike shared a touching tribute on social media that wished farewell to “one of the greatest competitors in the history of sport.”
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