Former World No.1 Maria Sharapova was knocked out of the Australian Open 2020 in the first round as the 19th seed Donna Vekic rallied past her to earn a 6-3, 6-4 victory. With this defeat, Sharapova makes three straight Grand Slam first-round exits.
The defeat can see the Russian fall more than 200 places outside of the top 350 the WTA rankings. The question arises that will Sharapova still earn a wildcard in the draw? As her performances are starting to raise the question: for how long will she get a sponsor-earning drawcard?
Vekic sealed the first set against an error-strewn Maria Sharapova
There were no threats to either serve in the opening service games. However, Vekic, who is enjoying the form of her life, continued her on-point game to break the Russian at love in the fourth and take a 3-1 lead.
The 23-year-old kept Sharapova under pressure on her serve. In the sixth game at 4-1, Vekic hit a smart drop shot to move up 15-0 on Sharapova’s serve. A double fault from Maria Sharapova invited more pressure on her serve.
Maria responded well to move up at 30-30. However, the veteran missed an easy forehand winner to concede a breakpoint. Sharapova then hit another unforced error – her tenth against Vekic’s three – gifted a second break of the set.
The Croatian failed to serve out the set at 5-1 as the 32-year-old broke back to stay in the set. On her second chance of serving out the set, Vekic had to dig deep as Sharapova secured the first point of the game and posed a danger.
However, the consecutive unforced error on the forehand side gifted the lead to Vekic before Sharapova took a point at 30-30. Another forehand error from Sharapova led her opponent to the set point before she secured the opening set 6-3 in 37 minutes.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 21, 2020
Vekic comes back from 1-4 to win the set
The momentum certainly swung on Sharapova’s side, late in the second set despite losing it. She carried the momentum in the next set, holding a strong opening service game. She also earned a break chance on Vekic’s serve but failed to grab it. Within a flash, the 5-time Grand Slam Champion was 4-1 up, breaking her opponent once.
— anna (@sharapova_girl) January 21, 2020
However, the 19th seed responded well as she secured a break at 4-3 as Sharapova, whose forehand was on song, lost focus. Donna Vekic then changed gears at the right moment as she sealed another break to get a chance to serve out the match. Vekic then served out the match and won the set 6-4 in 45 minutes.
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