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Sharapova unsure of Australian Open future after first-round exit
January 21, 2020 2:16 PM

When asked if she’ll return to Melbourne Park next year, Russian answered ‘I don’t know’. (AP pic)

MELBOURNE: Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova admitted she does not know if she will be back at the Australian Open next year after suffering a first-round defeat in Melbourne on Tuesday.

The former world No 1, playing on a wildcard, is set to drop below 350 in the rankings following her 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Croatia’s 19th-seeded Donna Vekic.

It was the 32-year-old Sharapova’s third first-round exit in a row at Grand Slam tournaments and will increase speculation over her future.

Sharapova, banned for 15 months for failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open, was unable to say whether she would return next year.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” said the Russian, already ranked a lowly 145th, when asked by AFP if she would be back at Melbourne Park in 2021.

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

Sharapova, who won the Australian Open in 2008, was similarly vague about the months or even weeks ahead.

“Honestly, I’d give you the answer, I just don’t know,” she said about what tournaments she will play in the near future.

“I haven’t thought of my schedule moving forward from here yet.”

Haunted look

Against Vekic there were flashes of the form that helped make Sharapova one of the most marketable women in sport, but she carried a haunted look at times, too.

After missing large chunks of last year with a shoulder injury, she needed a wildcard to compete in Melbourne.

Playing on the centre court, Rod Laver Arena – a sign of Sharapova’s enduring pulling power – she lost the first set in 36 minutes.

She broke to go 4-1 up in the second set, but Vekic struck back and sealed victory on the second match point when Sharapova fired wildly wide.

Sharapova said she was not taking much notice of her plummeting ranking.

“Last year I think I played seven or eight tournaments so I don’t know if I can look at the ranking and really think about it in depth,” she said, cutting a forlorn figure.

“Just because I really haven’t played and I was injured most of the year.

“You know, I certainly have to take that into account.”

Sharapova, who last lost in the Melbourne first round in 2010, has struggled for form and fitness since returning from the ban for taking meldonium.

Sharapova, once a rival to Serena Williams at the top of women’s tennis, refused to blame her right shoulder problem for her latest early exit.

“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,” she said.

“I was there, I put myself out there (playing).

“As tough as it was, I finished the match – it wasn’t the way that I wanted.”

Vekic plays France’s Alize Cornet or qualifier Monica Niculescu of Romania in round two.



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Cerita kupas pisang di Terbuka Australia

PEMAIN tenis Perancis, Elliot Benchetrit akui agak terkejut dengan maklum balas luar biasa selepas dia menyuruh budak pengutip bola mengupas pisang di Terbuka Australia, menyebabkan pengadil perlawanan mengarahkan supaya melakukannya sendiri.

Dia yang digelar ‘Bananaman’ oleh media Australia, memberikan pisang untuk dikupas kepada budak pengutip bola ketika aksi kelayakan, dengan alasan dia perlu menyapu krim ke tangannya.

Bagaimanapun, pengadil perlawanan, John Blom tidak berkenan dengan tindakan berkenaan dan menyuruh Benchetrit melakukannya sendiri, kerana perkara itu seperti memperhambakan budak pengutip bola.

Insiden itu mendapat reaksi luar biasa di media sosial dengan legenda tenis wanita, Martina Navratilova memuatnaik status di Twitter.

“Apa pula selepas ini, anggur? John (pengadil) melakukan tindakan yang tepat, itu sudah pasti.

Benchetrit, yang dikenali sebagai Bench, menceritakan dari sudutnya selepas tersingkir di pusingan pertama, mendakwa bahawa budak perempuan berkenaan sejak dari awal lagi memang tolong mengupas pisang untuknya.

“Pada kedudukan 6-5 di set terakhir, ketika rehat, saya meminta budak perempuan itu untuk mengupas pisang kerana saya perlu letakkan krim di tangan untuk elak dari berpeluh.

“Dia (budak pengutip bola) sebelum itu pun sudah mengupas pisang di awal perlawanan. Bagaimanapun, kali kedua, pengadil ternampak dan memberitahu budak perempuan bukan hamba saya dan saya perlu lakukannya sendiri.

“Saya terkejut pengadil berkata seperti itu dan agak terkejut insiden ini menjadi hangat di media sosial tanpa mengetahui perkara sebenar yang berlaku,” kata Benchetrit.

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