Maria Sharapova announces return to the court alongside tennis legends

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Tennis legend Maria Sharapova has announced her return to the court, joining fellow legend John McEnroe in a pickleball match against Andre Agassi and his partner, Steffi Graf.

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The former world No. 1 shared a video to social media confirming her return to the court for the second running of the Pickleball Slam, which will be played at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in South Florida.

“I’m playing pickleball,” the five-time Slam winner said in the video.

“Not just any pickleball, I am playing with John McEnroe against Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi.

“Dare I say I’m getting a little competitive. Slightly nervous and anxious.”

The match, which is played as sole doubles match, is played for a USD$1m cash prize, and last year featured McEnroe alongside 1989 French Open winner Michael Chang against Agassi and 2003 US Open winner Andy Roddick.

Pickleball, a cut-down version of tennis played on a smaller court with plastic balls and paddles, has exploded in popularity with the Professional Pickleball Association recently signing ex-world No. 5 Eugenie Bouchard to the $20m tour.

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the US with over 36 million players, and the has high-profile team owners including Nick Kyrgios, Naomi Osaka, and LeBron James.

According to the MLP, the sport is exploding in popularity in Australia with an estimated 25,000 Australians already playing.

MLP Australia will begin on September 8 in Brisbane before Melbourne and the Sydney events later in the year, with close to a million dollars in cash prizes over the next year.

Pacific Pickleball’s 33 elite local players across teams in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast will now play under the new Major League Pickleball Australia banner.

Agassi and Graf said they were hooked on the sport after careers at the top of professional tennis.

“After Andy and I took home the hardware at the first Pickleball Slam, I said I would be playing pickleball as long as I can walk — that’s how much I enjoy this game,” Agassi said in a press release for the second running of the Pickleball Slam.

“Naturally, I am so excited to share this experience with one of the best tennis players, my wife.”

“When I watched the inaugural Pickleball Slam in April and stepped onto the court, I was hooked,” Graf said.

“Andre and I can’t wait to get back out on the court together to face off against Maria and John.”

Sharapova retired from professional tennis at 32 having reached the top of the world rankings, five Grand Slam titles and over $60 million in career prizemoney earnings.

She was the highest paid female athlete in the world for over a decade, and in 2022 gave birth to a son with British entrepreneur Alexander Gilkes, named Theodore.

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