Women’s tennis continues to lose some of its biggest stars and, after the retirements of Agniezska Radwanska in 2018, Dominika Cibulkova in 2019 and more recently Caroline Wozniacki, now it was time for the charismatic Russian Maria Sharapova to put an end to her tennis career.
An early talent that was never able to fully dominate
The Russian tennis that started standing out very soon on the WTA circuit ended up having a career that many might consider average, considering the expectations she created when she arrived on the main circuit.
Maria Sharapova shocked the world already in 2004 when only with 17 years of age she surprised Serena Williams on the Wimbledon final, that way winning her first Grand Slam. In the following here, she would confirm her ascension by taking the number 1 spot on the WTA Rankings.
In 2006, she won the US Open and she conquered her 2nd Grand Slam title, confirming that she could become a serious contender to winning a lot of titles throughout her career. However, the following years would eventually contradict that.
Sharapova would eventually win the Australian Open in 2008 and Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014 to complete the career Grand Slam, which consists on winning every Grand Slam title of the circuit.
In any case, the 5 Grand Slam titles won in 15 years of tennis at the highest level ended up being a somewhat disappointing record for many, according to the success she quickly found on those first 3 years in the WTA circuit.
A stain on her career that should be dismissed
Maria Sharapova was suspended in 2016 due to the use of a forbidden substance (melonium) that had her absent from the courts for 15 months.
Back then, the athlete claimed that she was unaware about the new law that prohibited that substance that the player took since 2006, which means it is perfectly plausible that it wasn’t exactly an attempt to obtain superior performance levels when compared to her rivals.
— Match Point Podcast 🎙🎾 (@MPTenisPodcast) February 26, 2020
In any case, that was a very controversial situation at the time, which certainly didn’t contribute towards the psychological fortitude of the Russian player that always seemed very strong on that aspect, showcasing a great tenacity and fighting spirit on court.
Despite that less positive period, the truth is that Maria Sharapova is one of the 6 tennis players of the “Open Era” to have won every Grand Slam tournament of the circuit, which puts her amongst the best players of all time, even if she can never get close to a Serena Williams, for example.
The rivalry with Serena Williams
One of the reasons why Maria Sharapova ends her career with only 5 Grand Slam titles clearly has to do with the fact she played during the same era as Serena Williams on the WTA circuit.
The North American player had a one-way rivalry with the Russian, because, besides that Sharapova victory in 2004 at Wimbledon, when she surprised Serena Williams, it wouldn’t happen again with Williams having a clear dominance over the European player.
The final record of head-to-head encounters indicates a smashing 20-2, with 8 of those victories happening at Grand Slams and 3 of them in finals.
— Nike (@Nike) February 26, 2020
Besides that, Serena Williams has beaten Maria Sharapova on the final of the 2012 Olympic Games, stopping the Russian from making history for her country and instead having to settle for a silver medal.
Analysing the data rationally, we can say that without Serena Williams on the picture, maybe Sharapova could have doubled the number of Grand Slam titles she won, but that’s competition and credit is due to the opponents and, on this case, to Serena Williams that has been imposing her dominance for decades as the best player on the women’s sector.
New references needed!
With the recent retirements of Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova, women’s tennis became poorer with the loss of two figures of the sport for most of this millennium, it is time for us to see some new players emerging.
Serena Williams continues competing and will try to add some more to her current 23 Grand Slam titles, but the Romanian Simona Halep and the Spaniard Garbine Muguruza are other players that have been looking more solid and competent to fight regularly for the most important titles of the circuit.
Other players such as Ash Barty or Sofia Kenin might get in the way during the next couple of years, with the latter having shocked the tennis world by winning the Australian Open at the start of the season with only 21 years of age.
The North American player that was born in Moscow has Maria Sharapova as her idol and she might follow her footsteps winning several Grand Slam titles because she will have enough time to at least try it.