MARTIN SAMUEL: Maria Sharapova produced a final Oscar-worthy performance in her retirement video … but it was as good as saying goodbye to standard tennis as soon as she said goodbye to meldonium
- Maria Sharapova announced that she “said goodbye” to tennis at the age of 32
- The five-time Grand Slam champion has created some Oscar-worthy moments
- The Russian submitted a 15-month ban after he tested positive for meldonium in 2016
- She then fell outside the 300 best female players in the world
Maria Sharapova was full of Kobe Bryant. “Tennis,” she simulated. “I say goodbye.”
The video, shot soft focus for Vanity Fair, echoed Bryant’s letter to The Players’ Tribune in 2015 announcing his retirement from basketball. So moving, so personal, it was turned into a short animation film, Dear Basketball, which won an Oscar in 2018.
And Sharapova has certainly also delivered some Oscar-worthy performances. The victim, that was brilliant. The rival of Serena Williams, although that was an earlier role, and Williams has now won 20 times in 22 meetings.
Maria Sharapova has released a video in which she confirms that she ‘says goodbye’ to tennis at the age of 32
Sharapova was recently the poster girl for a number of large international groups, in particular Grindeks, a Latvian pharmaceutical company and manufacturers of meldonium. She is not on the payroll, but if an athlete has publicly verified the huge benefits of meldonium, it is Sharapova.
Because she was prevented from winning a position in the top 20 of tennis, she had won five Grand Slam titles and reached another five finals in 11 years.
Indeed, as soon as she said goodbye to meldonium, it was as good as saying goodbye to standard tennis. Having passed a drug test at the Australian Open 2016, she never went beyond the quarter-finals at the French Open in 2018. This is no surprise, given what Sharapova knew about meldonium – she used the dose for larger matches at better opponents. It’s working.
She has been struggling with shoulder injuries for some time and this offers the official and undoubtedly real explanation for her retirement and her fall beyond the top 300.
The five-time Grand Slam champion was banned for testing positive for meldonium in 2016
Shoulder problems are the death of a professional tennis player. Yet it is impossible to consider Sharapova’s career without also taking into account the clear difference in her performance before and after the ban. Maybe it just came at the wrong time – she was past 30 when she returned – but it was as if an invisible force field had been removed.
Tournament directors still sought her with wildcards and absurd promotional performances – and real fans remained loyal – but for the wider sports audience it left too many questions unanswered. Even the re-shooting of her crime as an administrative error by the Court of Arbitration for Sport could not hide the fact that Sharapova was never the same again.
Now she has said goodbye to tennis, led the stage nicely and has the perfect look for her brand. Apart from that carefully sharpened image, you could say that tennis had said goodbye to its own eyes long ago.
Sharapova fell out of the top 300 female players in the world after returning to the field