LONDON: Fifteen years after shooting to global fame when she captured the Wimbledon title and the hearts of Centre Court, an emotional Maria Sharapova quit the tournament in pain, raising more questions about her future in the sport.
The 2004 champion retired with a left arm injury in the final set of her tie with Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier who claimed a 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 5-0 win.
Sharapova, now ranked at 80 in the world, served for the match in the second set but then needed treatment on her arm.
The 32-year-old had only returned to the tour in Mallorca last month after five months out to recover from right shoulder surgery in January.
But despite that lengthy absence, the cold facts are that the five-time major winner and former world number one has not got beyond the quarter-finals of a Slam since she returned from an 18-month drug ban in 2017.
“I’m still proud that I’m here. This is not the easy way. I think the easy way would be just for me to maybe do other things,” said Sharapova who was close to tears in her post-match news conference.
“This is far from easy. I’ve never taken the easy route. I’ve always worked, committed, focused. Like I said, these moments are hard, but I love what I do. I still have a lot of passion for it.”
Tuesday’s exit came despite her serving for the match in the second set.
With that opportunity gone, she needed treatment on an inflamed tendon and her fate was sealed against a player who had been defeated in the first round at the All England Club on her last seven appearances.