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Maria Sharapova out on the court.

Kobe Bryant's Death Reportedly Played a Role in Maria Sharapova's Retirement

Gettyimages | Chris Hyde
By Allie Elaine

A few days ago, tennis legend, Maria Sharapova, took to Instagram to announce her official retirement from the game that she has played most of her life. Sharapova wrote, "Tennis showed me the world—and it showed me what I was made of. It’s how I tested myself and how I measured my growth. And so in whatever I might choose for my next chapter, my next mountain, I’ll still be pushing. I’ll still be climbing. I’ll still be growing.

Tennis—I’m saying goodbye."

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Gettyimages | Rob Carr

She also paired the caption with a photo of herself as a young girl, holding her racket on the tennis court. While fans and colleagues were shocked to hear of her decision, Sharapova told "The New York Times" that her heartbreak over the death of her dear friend, Kobe Bryant, influenced her decision to retire. Just days before Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Sharapova had gotten eliminated from the 2020 Australian Open in the first round.

Gettyimages | Jonathan DiMaggio

She also revealed that she had already been playing with the idea of retiring before her departure to Australia. In addition, the tennis pro tragically revealed that she was actually supposed to see Bryant the week following his death.

"We were supposed to see each other like three days after the crash," she stated.

Sharapova also said that Bryant was an "incredible sounding board" for her, and that his support and recognition of female athletes inspired her and many others.

Gettyimages | Vaughn Ridley

Later, she also added to "The Times" that, "I think we all seem at times in our journey like larger than life because of what we do, but everyone at the core is incredibly fragile."

"And if anything it just opens up your eyes to what really matters in life, so that was a moment where I had a really good think about my future as well," she continued.

Being that Sharapova is only 32 years old, many were shocked to hear of retirement.

Gettyimages | Cameron Spencer

While she has been dealing with an array of injuries and false starts since making a return to the court from her 15 month ban in 2016, Sharapova also explained that a shift in priorities made her decision a bit easier.

"As I think you've seen throughout my career, my perseverance has been my greatest tool, my greatest strength. But I've started feeling like it was becoming a weakness, because the stubbornness that was keeping me going was keeping me going for wrong reasons," she said. "Would I have loved to have a sixth, a seventh, an eighth Grand Slam trophy? That number sounds better, but I could have had zero when I started, and I got myself to a pretty incredible place."

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