This time two years ago, five-time Major champion Maria Sharapova announced her retirement from professional tennis. Her good friend Novak Djokovic subsequently led his peers in paying tribute to the Russian icon the following week at the 2020 Dubai Open. The Serb said that Sharapova has transcended the sport with her achievements and marketability.
“Her impact on the sport, not just women’s tennis, but men’s tennis, tennis in general, was great. It still is great. And it’s going to keep on being present because her brand I think exceeds her tennis achievements,” Djokovic said.
Apart from winning five Grand Slam titles, Maria Sharapova also launched her own brand, Sugapova, a decade ago. The 20-time Major winner referenced that and the Russian’s other endorsements in his praise of her.
“She has different businesses. I know she has Sugarpova brand, different things,” he remarked. “She’s a very smart girl, someone that I know very well for a long time. She has the mind of a champion, someone that never gives up.”
“Maria Sharapova had a lot of obstacles and difficulties especially with her injuries” – Novak Djokovic
The Serb also alluded to how Sharapova was forced to make one comeback after another in her illustrious career due to multiple shoulder injuries.
“She’s shown that especially in the last five years. She had a lot of obstacles and difficulties especially with her injuries and everything that she had to endure in order to give herself at least another chance to play competitive tennis,” he said.
“For someone that has won five Grand Slams and has been No. 1 of the world, legend of the sport. it’s not easy to kind of restart all over again. She has done that so many times in the last five years.”
Towards the end of the interaction, Djokovic expressed his admiration for Sharapova, suggesting that she had left a lasting impression on tennis fans and her colleagues with her achievements.
“Respect, great respect to her. I wish her huge relief. I’m sure she’s feeling huge relief right now. I would guess that’s kind of a feeling that comes in first. She should definitely be proud of everything she has achieved,” he concluded.
Having turned pro in 2001 at the age of 14, Sharapova went on to win each of the four Majors and spent a total of 21 weeks as World No. 1. The Russian lapped up $38,777,962 in prize money over her career, making her the third-highest earning female player ever after the Williams sisters.