19th seed at Australian Open 2020 Donna Vekic was drawn to open against the five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova. Despite being the favorite of the match, the Croatian player was on tenterhooks before beginning her battle.
The tennis world also predicted Vekic to be the winner due to Sharapova’s shabby form on the WTA Tour amid injuries. And right before the Aussie Open, Maria conceded a three-set defeat to qualifier Jennifer Brady in Brisbane.
With those butterflies in her stomach, Vekic vanquished the former champion Sharapova 6-3, 6-4 in the opening round of the Melbourne Major. However, a few weeks before the Aussie Major, it was not the case. The Russian tennis ace had shattered Vekic during the practice match in Italy.
“Many people don’t know this, but we actually practiced in the off-season because she was training in Italy, half an hour from Monaco [where Vekic lives]. I practiced with her and she beat me badly, 6-1 in the practice match,” Vekic told Podcast Inkubator.
A year before her retirement, former World Number one Maria Sharapova was tackling string of injuries. It compelled her to skip numerous events on the circuit, including the entire clay season of 2019.
Even when she played some matches, she was struggling to complete those. Amidst her wrist and shoulder issues, the peerless champion Sharapova decided to hang her racquet in February 2020.
“Maria Sharapova is a champion whatever people say” – Donna Vekic
“You can’t really compare match and practice but she played really well. She was training for a few months at the end of the year and she was recovering her shoulder. She played so well in that practice match, I thought for sure she will win some tournament this year,” World Number 24 Vekic added.
“After the Australian Open draw was revealed and I saw I will play her. She still is Maria Sharapova – she is a champion whatever people say. Champions know how to raise their level so I knew that I can’t lose my level till the end.”
The Russian legend Sharapova played her last professional tennis match against Donna Vekic in Melbourne, Australia. And her last WTA victory came against Alison Riske at Cincinnati Open 2019.