One thing is certain — Maria Sharapova is still here. But the question is, for how long? The former world No.1 is down to No.369 in the rankings, following her third straight first-round Grand Slam exit and the 2019 season hampered by a shoulder injury.
In the current tennis era we often see players doing well in their older years, or even reaching their prime after the age of 30. At 32, the five-time major champ Sharapova is definitely not old to be a major challenge on the tour, but she’s going through an extremely rough patch and even the super competitive Russian puts out a vibe of uncertainty and vulnerability. I consider Sharapova sharp-minded and courageous when it comes to making important decisions, but in the case of the current state of her career those superior traits of her character seem to have taken a back seat. Don’t you think so?
Tennis players tend to struggle with depression after retirement, as the only way of life they know changes dramatically over night. Remember Dinara Safina’s interview for Behind the Racquet? However, in Sharapova’s case, I can’t imagine that happening, as she’s such a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur that she can have her hands full until the age of 90. Fear of retirement is not an option here.
Sharapova has not won a match since the Western & Southern Open in August 2019 and has not beaten a Top 20 opponent since Caroline Wozniacki in the third round of the 2019 Australian Open. It’s not that we haven’t seen players resurrecting after long bad periods and injuries, but for some reason Sharapova’s situation frequently sparks retirement discussions among tennis fans. Her press conference following the first-round loss to Donna Vekic at the 2020 Australian Open only further ignited retirement rumors.
When asked if she would be back in Melbourne next year, Sharapova, who entered the Grand Slam as a wildcard, replied: “I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you if I can or if I will, but I would love to.”
Moreover, Sharapova was very non-committal about her future:
“It’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time… I haven’t thought of my schedule moving forward from here yet… I can speak about my struggles and the things that I’ve gone through with my shoulder, but it’s not really in my character to. So, you know, I was there. I put myself out there. You know, as tough as it was I finished the match and, yeah, it wasn’t the way that I wanted.”
As Tennis with an Accent reports, Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou commented on Sharapova’s Australian Open performance:
“She was an incredible competitor, but I don’t see that anymore. At some point you have to win matches because if you don’t it affects your performance. She’s [also] struggling to move and move fast enough on court.”
Bethanie Mattek-Sands also gave her opinion about Sharapova’s career prospects.
“Who knows if this is the last we’re going to see of her or if she’s going to continue playing. I think every player wants to do it on their own terms. Some want to go out on top, some want to fade in to the darkness. But, we’ll see.”
Even though Maria has countless career opportunities ahead of her, I think she still nurtures immense love for tennis and wants to make sure that she doesn’t give up without being 100% sure that all her resources have dried up. Her outstanding competitive spirit can never go away, in my opinion, but her body will have to allow her to endure the wear and tear of professional sport. Whether that will happen, time will tell.
I notice a lot of people are commenting “Just retire” whenever Sharapova loses a match, especially those that consider her a cheater because of the Meldonium doping case, but I’m not in that category. What do you think? Is this the end of Maria Sharapova or will we see her at the top again? Would it be a shame for her career to just fade away, should she have left at her prime? Tell me in the comments below!