The Truth About Maria Sharapova's Boyfriend, Alexander Gilkes

After winning five Grand Slam titles, this athlete is ready to say goodbye. On Feb. 26, Maria Sharapova announced her retirement with a heartfelt essay on Vanity Fair. In the world of tennis, Sharapova's name is often right up there with other recent greats — Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Naomi Osaka — despite a few bumps along the way. The 32-year-old began her essay by posing some questions: "How do you leave behind the only life you've ever known? How do you walk away from the courts you've trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love—one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys—a sport where you found a family, along with fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?"

In the piece, Sharapova explores her love of tennis, beginning at age 4 in Sochi, Russia. Just because she's saying goodbye, that doesn't mean she's not grateful for all the sport gave her. "Tennis showed me the world—and it showed me what I was made of," she wrote. "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."

The athlete isn't the only one simultaneously mourning and celebrating her career on the court. Following the announcement, Sharapova's boyfriend Alexander Gilkes is proving he'll always be her number-one fan, no matter what.

Alexander Gilkes is a businessman with an art focus

So, who is the guy who's won over the former Wimbledon champ's heart? According to his Instagram bio, Alexander Gilkes is "reinterpreting the art world." He co-founded Paddle8, which was described on its website as "a global leader in cultural e-commerce." The online auction house's goal is to make "buying and selling fine art and collectibles online an easy, secure, and efficient experience." (As of March 2020, Paddle8 filed for bankruptcy, per Artnet News.)

And now, his current adventure is at Pace Gallery, "a leading contemporary art gallery with locations in New York, London, Hong Kong, Geneva, Palo Alto, and Seoul." His IG teases that soon he'll be working on a mystery project called Squared Circles, launching sometime in 2020.

Basically, Gilkes is one busy man, but he still has a personal life. He's been publicly dating Maria Sharapova since October 2018, per the New York Post. That's when the pair made their relationship "Instagram official," although in a separate report, the Post noted they were linked ever since January of that year and kept their romance relatively under-wraps.

The royal family has ties to Alexander Gilkes

As it turns out, Alexander Gilkes has several ties to the royal family. The 40-year-old British businessman is believed to be good friends with Prince William and Prince Harry, per the Daily Mail. Gilkes reportedly went to the same school as Harry — Eton College — but it's unclear how close the two actually are. Still, he's friendly enough with William to have snagged an invite to his wedding with Kate Middleton in 2011. Interestingly enough, Gilkes' brother Charlie dated Kate's sister Pippa Middleton during university, per Town and Country. Pippa and Charlie even remained friends post-split and attended one another's weddings.

But hold on, that's not the end of all the royal connections here: According to the New York Post, Gilkes' ex-wife, fashion designer Misha Nonoo, is the one who supposedly set up Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. (Gilkes and Nonoo were married for four years before calling it quits in 2017, per Page Six.) On top of all that, Gilkes' auction house Paddle8 briefly employed Princess Eugenie, the Daily Mail reported. He also attended Eugenie's royal wedding to Jack Brooksbank in October 2018.

Alexander Gilkes is forever cheering Maria Sharapova on

When Maria Sharapova announced her retirement, Alexander Gilkes took to Instagram to prove he has his girlfriend's back. Along with a photo of Sharapova on a tennis court, he wrote, "To the kindest and most professional person I know, here is to you Maria, and all that awaits you in your next chapter! May you continue to inspire us all with your deep humility, self-deprecation, strength and focus." He also expressed excitement about the road ahead. "As a remarkable first chapter closes with so many extraordinary feats, we look forward to all that you will accomplish with equal grit in the years to come. Proudly and lovingly, xx."

Just like Gilkes, fans are eager to see what comes next. But as Sharapova said herself, there are a few things she's looking forward to in the meantime: "A sense of stillness with my family. Lingering over a morning cup of coffee. Unexpected weekend getaways. Workouts of my choice (hello, dance class!)." And hey, she more than deserves it.