Millennium Post

It's a wrap!

Its a wrap!

Bidding adieu to the one thing that literally defines you is never an easy task. For most, it is difficult to fathom their retirement from a profession which has been an inseparable part of their lifetime. For few, say sportspersons, such a farewell comes relatively early. When the news of Maria Sharapova's retirement broke loose, it served as a reminder of how time had flown. Maria had rocked the world back in 2004 when, at the age of just seventeen, she defeated Serena Williams in the Wimbledon Final and was crowned as only the fourth-youngest Grand Slam Champion in the Open Era. The world had then just taken note of the young Russian sensation who had trumped the then World Number One to the elusive grass-court title. Though she ended the year placed on the fourth spot on world rankings, she had made a significant dent in the professional sphere. In 2005, she made it to the top of WTA rankings. The tag came with a fitting performance that followed in next year's (2006) US Open final, beating Justine Henin-Hardenne in straight sets — 6–4, 6–4. From thereon, Sharapova had a fan following and gradually rose to become a household name. Donning the all-white kit and tieing a clean knot on her blonde hair, Sharapova's rise also coincided with the phase where sports for women got an impetus in India. It, therefore, is not surprising that Sharapova, and Williams sisters, made for ideal role-models at the time. Having conquered Wimbledon and US Open, Sharapova clinched the Australian Open title in 2008 by defeating Ana Ivanović 7–5, 6–3, without losing a set the entire tournament or facing a tiebreak in any set throughout the tournament. She, however, missed that year's US Open because she needed surgery on her right shoulder — something that would bother her a lot in the later stages of her career. But even so, one could say, Sharapova of 2008 was an unstoppable force destined to hit a career grand slam. And, it indeed happened in 2012 when she finally won the French Open by defeating Sara Errani in the final, 6–3, 6–2. Though in 2012, Sharapova also won a Silver Medal in the London Olympic Games. She won the French Open again in 2014 to make her tally of Grand Slams to 5. While her career glittered in the decade since her debut, the downfall followed soon after. She failed to beat Serena Williams at the Australian Open in 2015 which would be her 10th and last appearance in a major final. While shoulder problems developed, a real blow came when in 2016, Sharapova was handed a ban for failing a drug test at the Australian Open. Admitting it to be a grave mistake and taking full responsibility for letting her fans down, Sharapova appealed her original penalty of two years and ultimately served a 15-month suspension. While she re-emerged from the ban to tour again in 2017, Sharapova's ranking was quite low to allow automatic qualification. She did return to the US Open in 2017 but lost in the fourth round. Recently, Sharapova crashed out of Australian Open 2020 in the very first round — a wide affirmation of how her glory days were well past her. Though not as decorated a career as Williams siblings, Maria Sharapova carved her own reputation and inspired kids all around the globe in her decade-and-a-half long spell. Maria was not the first women to win a career grand slam; she was not the youngest to win a grand slam; she was not the one to set any particular record as such. In terms of statistics, Maria might lose her place to either of Williams sisters but as far as influence is concerned, Maria delivered a fair share of that to girls around the globe.

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