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27 Feb, 2020 10:49

'She is a legend of the sport': Novak Djokovic leads tributes to Maria Sharapova upon her retirement

'She is a legend of the sport': Novak Djokovic leads tributes to Maria Sharapova upon her retirement

The world's top ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic says that Maria Sharapova's influence on the sport will extend long past her retirement, after the Russian five-time Grand Slam champion announced the end of her career.

Sharapova, 32, revealed on Wednesday that she was calling time on her groundbreaking tennis career, after a string of injuries restricted her time on the court in recent seasons. 

As one might expect from a career which saw her rise to the pinnacle of the women's game, several of the sport's greats paid tribute to her impact on tennis. And Djokovic led the way, as he called on the crowd to give Sharapova a round of applause following his Dubai Tennis Championship Round of 16 win against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Also on rt.com ‘Tennis, I’m saying goodbye’: Russian five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova calls time on glittering career

"Her impact on the sport, not just women’s tennis, but men’s tennis, tennis in general, was great," he said.

"It still is great. It’s going to keep on being present because her brand I think exceeds her tennis achievements."

Sharapova's latter-day career was consumed by various injuries. Last year saw her claim just eight match wins, and she was without a victory in two outings in 2020 before she announced her retirement.

While these under-par performances were injury-related, Djokovic maintains that her achievements in the game eclipse those of many of the sport's top stars.

"She has the mind of a champion, someone that never gives up. 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, a 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."

Also on rt.com Teen triumphs, tussles with Serena, and colossal earnings: Maria Sharapova’s remarkable career in pictures

Now, Djokovic says, it is time for Sharapova to take some well-deserved rest, and the Serb says that she can be more than content to put her feet up, given the achievements she secured during her impressive career.

"Respect. Great respect to her. I wish her huge relief. I’m sure she’s feeling huge relief right now," he said.

"I would guess that’s kind of a feeling that comes in first. She should definitely be proud of everything she has achieved."