DOHA, Qatar -- While the WTA's top-ranked players fought for quarterfinal and semifinal spots at the Qatar Total Open, the typical rigors of a top-tier event were rocked by a sudden development on Wednesday: five-time Grand Slam-winning superstar Maria Sharapova's retirement announcement.
The eight players who were still battling for the Premier 5-level title on that day reacted to the news after their round-of-16 or quarterfinal matches, offering praise and well wishes to the legendary Russian and former WTA World No.1.
• Current World No.1 Ashleigh Barty faced Sharapova three times, including at the Australian's home Grand Slam event in Melbourne last year. "I faced Maria a couple of times, and obviously we had great battles every single time," Barty said to the press after her quarterfinal win. "She's an exceptional competitor and achieved so much in our sport."
"I think whatever is next for her, whatever her next chapter is, I'm certain that she will excel at," Barty continued. "She's an incredible fighter."
• "I think she's a great champion and she did it her way," fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova told the media, when asked about her compatriot.
"Each athlete deserves to take the time when they're ready to say good-bye, and it's never easy," Kuznetsova continued, following her Doha quarterfinal victory. Kuznetsova, Sharapova, and Anastasia Myskina made up the wave of Russians to break through with Grand Slam titles in 2004 -- the first for their country in women's singles.
"I wish her the best, and I think she's very kind in heart and nice person," the 2004 US Open champion added, regarding the 2004 Wimbledon champion. "I wish her to be as successful in her life after career as she was in tennis."
• "She won five Grand Slams, she is a big champion," said Petra Kvitova, who claimed one of her two Wimbledon titles over Sharapova in the 2011 final. "She has really been a business lady off the court as well. So she achieved a lot in her life so far and she still has so many things to do, even after tennis."
"For me, it was a pleasure to be with her on the tour, sharing the court with her," Kvitova added. "It was always great battles when we play together. She's a big hitter as well, so it's been always nice to share the court with her and I do always have respect to her."
It was a pleasure to share the court with you @MariaSharapova— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) February 26, 2020
We always had great battles when we played and I have so much respect for your hard work and the way you always fight for everything.
You have achieved a lot in your life so far and I know this is just the start 🤗 pic.twitter.com/PLi1Od4Eru
• "[Sharapova] is a big fighter, and she is pushing herself through everything and believing in herself," said Aryna Sabalenka, who was the vanquished opponent in Sharapova's last singles final, at Tianjin in 2017.
"She's a nice person, a good player," continued Sabalenka, who is into the final four at Doha. "For sure, it's a career to remember, and I think WTA will miss her, and I'm just wishing her good luck in the next chapter of her life."
• Fellow former World No.1 Garbiñe Muguruza, who reached the Doha quarterfinals this week, called Sharapova "a tough competitor," adding that "she was one of the tennis stars out there."
"She must feel like, 'Okay, my life is going to do another step in another direction,' and it's good, I feel it's normal," the Spaniard continued. "For sure, she has a lot of trophies at her home, so, yeah, she's going to do something different."
• "I'm really sad that she's retiring," said rising Tunisian Ons Jabeur, a quarterfinalist in Doha, as well as at this year's Australian Open. "We never got the chance to play each other, unfortunately, but she's a great player, been lucky enough to have been with her on tour and I wish her the best."
• Top 10 player Belinda Bencic noted that "I was also really lucky, you know, to play [Sharapova], I think, one time in  Australian Open. Obviously also someone I was watching when I was growing up."
"Of course I wish her the best off the court after her career," Doha quarterfinalist Bencic continued. "It's great to have a career like her, so I think she can be very happy and I wish her the best."
• "When I was young, I always look up [to] her," Zheng Saisai told the press, after she moved into the Doha quarterfinals. "My generation, always watching her, the times she was fighting. She never gives up, she's always there, doesn't matter [if it's] 1-5, doesn't matter the scores. Her mentality always inspires us to try to be the same mentality from the first point to the last."