Sharapova’s Australian Open future unclear

“It’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time”

Last Updated: 21/01/20 6:34am

Maria Sharapova needed a wild card to play at Melbourne Park, where she won the title in 2008
Maria Sharapova needed a wild card to play at Melbourne Park, where she won the title in 2008

Maria Sharapova has offered no guarantees that she will be back at the Australian Open after suffering a 6-3 6-4 loss to Donna Vekic at the Australian Open.

Sharapova has played a limited schedule because of ongoing shoulder problems and has won only three matches since reaching the fourth round in Melbourne last year. Her ranking is projected to drop to world No 366 as a result of her latest defeat.

Vekic proved a formidable opponent on the court where Sharapova won the title in 2008 and the 19th seed raced to a 5-1 lead in the opening set before the former world No 1 found a way to get back into the contest.

Sharapova made Vekic work hard to close out the set and took a 4-1 lead in the second but was unable to maintain her momentum, losing the last five games to make her earliest exit from Melbourne Park since 2010.

The Russian cut a disconsolate figure in her post-match press conference and, asked whether she will be here next year, she replied: “I don’t know.

“I was fortunate to get myself to be here and thankful to (tournament director) Craig (Tiley) and the team allowing me to be part of this event. It’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time.”

There is no way to get out of it except to keep believing in yourself because, if you do do all the right things and you don’t believe in yourself, then that’s probably a bad formula.

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova hit 19 winners but she also made 31 unforced errors during her defeat.

She said of her ranking drop: “I don’t know if I can look at the ranking and really think about it in depth just because I really haven’t played and I was injured most of the year. I certainly have to take that into account.

“I put myself out there. As tough as it was, I finished the match and it wasn’t the way that I wanted.

“There is no way to get out of it except to keep believing in yourself because, if you do do all the right things and you don’t believe in yourself, then that’s probably a bad formula.”

The big question mark concerns whether Sharapova’s shoulder will ever be in a condition to allow her to play a decent block of tournaments.

“I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you if I can or if I will, but I would love to,” she said.

Karolina Pliskova lost to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals here last year
Karolina Pliskova lost to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals here last year

Second-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-1 7-5 while sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic advanced thanks to a 6-3 7-5 victory over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Bencic, who has pledged to donate $200 for bushfire relief efforts with each double fault she serves, said she could easily have had more than the four during her win.

“It’s great. I could have done more, but I didn’t,” a smiling Bencic told reporters before being reminded that she also hit four aces. “Yes, so I can maybe donate (for) both.”

There were also victories for in-form youngsters Dayana Yastremska and Elena Rybakina.

Yastremska, seeded 23, next faces Caroline Wozniacki in what could be the final match of the Dane’s career.

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Source : Sky Sports