Sharapova vanquished by Donna Vekic in Australian Open first round

Sharapova vanquished by Donna Vekic in Australian Open first round

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.

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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.”

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