Sharapova's Australian Open future unclear after exit

Ruben Hill
January 21, 2020

Nadal, the first player to be world number one in three different decades, is still thriving at 33 but it's a different story for five-time Grand Slam victor Sharapova, 32.

Sharapova has played only eight tournaments since this event a year ago after suffering a repeat of shoulder problems that have dogged her career.

Sharapova needed a wild card to play at Melbourne Park, where she won the title in 2008, and had good recent memories having reached the fourth round previous year, beating defending champion Caroline Wozniacki.

Maria Sharapova's precipitous tumble down the rankings continued after she was bundled out of the Australian Open first round by Donna Vekic.

It turned out to be a long way to go for two matches.

World number two Karolina Pliskova raced through the first set before having to work hard in the second as she beat Kristina Mladenovic to reach the Australian Open second round.

Konta lost in the first round at the Brisbane International and then withdrew from the Adelaide International in an attempt to manage her injury. Even before she left for Australia, the British No. 1 told officials she wouldn't play Fed Cup this year.

The 32-year-old Russian remains a shadow of the player that she was before her drugs ban, and will need the charity of more privileged tournament entries if she is ever going to make it back near the top of the game. Still, she was upbeat after the loss.

"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", Sharapova said.

"And how I physically felt out there is obviously a massive tick for me compared to where I was in September of past year". Before Brisbane, I had been out for nearly 4-1/2 months. "So it's been quite a bit of time, not far off getting a protected ranking".

Russia's Daniil Medvedev, who took Nadal to five sets in last year's US Open final, will play 2019 Melbourne quarter-finalist Frances Tiafoe of America.

Sixth seed Belinda Bencic was a 6-3 7-5 victor over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova and there were also victories for in-form youngsters Dayana Yastremska and Elena Rybakina.

A new star emerged in 18-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, last year's NextGen champion, who earned his first Grand Slam victory 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-4 against Australia's Max Purcell.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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