Former tennis champion Maria Sharapova has bowed out of the Australian Open at the first hurdle on Tuesday; following a 6-3, 6-4 to Donna Vekic on Rod Laver Arena.
The Russian, 32, champion at Melbourne Park in 2008; was clearly still hampered by the shoulder injury that had restricted her to one previous competitive outing; since her opening-round exit at last year’s US Open.
Croatian Vekic proved very formidable and the 19th seed raced to an instant 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; as well as took a 4-1 lead in the second; but then was now unable to maintain her momentum; going on to lose the last five games to make her earliest exit from Melbourne Park since 2010.
Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova cut a forlorn figure in the post-match press conference as she was questioned about her injury problems.
“I’m not the only one,” she said. “You know, I can speak about my struggles and the things that I’ve gone through with my shoulder, but it’s not really in my character to.
“So, I was there. I put myself out there. As tough as it was, I finished the match and, yeah, it wasn’t the way that I wanted.”
Asked directly whether her 15th visit to Melbourne Park might be her last, Sharapova said there were no guarantees. She would let the future tell.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” she said, “I was fortunate to get myself to be here; and thanks to [the organisers for] allowing me to be part of this event.
“It’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time.”