WASHINGTON — Following former world No 1 Maria Sharapova’s announcement to retire from tennis on Wednesday, WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon released an official statement paying tribute to the five-time Grand Slam champion.

“I congratulate Maria on her outstanding career in professional tennis. Her achievements of a career Grand Slam, winner of 36 WTA titles and reaching the coveted No 1 ranking reflect her deep dedication and passion for the game. She will be greatly missed by her millions of fans around the world,” Simon said in the statement.

“But I know this will also mark an exciting new beginning for Maria as she now focuses on her many business ventures, charitable activities and other outside interests. I look forward to following her successes in the years to come as she steps away as a true champion of our sport,” Simon added.

Sharapova turned pro in 2001 at age 14. She won Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and the French Open in 2012 and 2014.

The 32-year-old Russian reached world number one in the WTA rankings in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2012, but she dropped to No 373 recently.

Sharapova received a two-year suspension from the International Tennis Federation in 2016 for testing positive for the banned substance meldonium. The suspension was reduced to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after Sharapova appealed. Since that suspension, Sharapova managed to reach only one major quarterfinal.

Sharapova has also been dealing with problems in her right shoulder for years and had multiple surgeries. She lost in the first round of this year’s Australian Open to Croatia’s Donna Vekic in straight sets. She played only two matches this season and lost both.

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