Former champion Maria Sharapova put up a mid-match fight before bowing out of the Australian Open at the first hurdle on Tuesday, beaten 6-3 6-4 by Croatian Donna Vekic on Rod Laver Arena.
The 32-year-old Russian 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.
Vekic proved a formidable opponent on the court where Sharapova won the title in 2008 and the 19th seed raced to a 5-1 lead in the opening set before the former world No 1 found a way to get back into the contest.
World No. 2 Karolina Pliskova barrelled into the Australian Open second round on Tuesday as she chases her first Grand Slam crown.
The 27-year-old Czech defeated France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 7-5 and plays Germany’s Laura Siegemund or American wildcard CoCo Vandeweghe next in Melbourne.
Pliskova, whose best Grand Slam appearance was defeat to Angelique Kerber in the final of the 2016 US Open, called it a “tough test” against 41st-ranked Mladenovic.
“We had some good matches in the past and it was tough mentally in the second set,” said Pliskova, who beat Naomi Osaka on the way to winning the Brisbane title this month. -AFP