"I'm saying goodbye." And with that, Maria Sharapova on Wednesday ended a 19-year tennis career that included five Grand Slam singles titles, an Olympic silver medal, and a suspension for her use of a banned substance. The 32-year-old Russian was the highest-earning women’s athlete from 2004 to 2015, the year she took home $30 million with tournament wins and endorsements from Nike and Evian, per the New York Times. Then came a two-year ban for taking meldonium, a drug used to improve blood flow in heart patients. The ban was ultimately reduced to 15 months on Sharapova's explanation that she'd used the drug for a decade owing to a magnesium deficiency and family history of diabetes, and wasn't aware it had been banned a month before she failed a drug test.
But she didn't have much success afterward, with her only win coming "at a lower-level event in China in October 2017," per the Times. She underwent shoulder surgery for the second time in February 2019 but continued to have problems. As of Wednesday, the former No. 1 was ranked No. 373. "My body had become a distraction," Sharapova writes in an essay published by Vanity Fair, describing "countless months in physical therapy." "As I embark on my next chapter, I want anyone who dreams of excelling in anything to know that doubt and judgment are inevitable: You will fail hundreds of times, and the world will watch you. Accept it. Trust yourself. I promise that you will prevail," she writes. "In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life," she adds. "I'll miss it everyday." (Read more Maria Sharapova stories.)