While most top seeds cruised through their first-round matches at the Australian Open on Tuesday, Maria Sharapova saw her run in Melbourne come to an early end.
Sharapova lost 6-3, 6-4 to No. 19 seed Donna Vekic in Rod Laver Arena, the third-straight time the Russian star has bowed out in the first round of a Grand Slam event.
Future in Question for Injury-Plagued Sharapova
The 32-year-old Sharapova last won a major in 2014, when she won the French open for the second time in three years. Overall, she has five Grand Slam titles to her credit.
Sharapova has struggled in recent years, being slowed by shoulder injuries and a 15-month suspension after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium. She came into the Australian Open as a wild-card entry after her ranking fell to No. 136 in the world at the end of the 2019 season. She could now fall below No. 300 in the world, as she will lose the points she earned by reaching the fourth round in Melbourne last year.
Sharapova’s early loss led to questions about her future in tennis that she isn’t yet ready to answer.
“I haven’t thought of my schedule moving forward from here yet,” Sharapova told reporters after the match. “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.”
The highest seed to be eliminated at the Australian Open on Tuesday was No. 12 Johanna Konta. The British star was defeated 6-4, 6-2 by Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.
Konta has previously reached the Australian Open semifinals, but has also been recently hampered by injuries. She sat out for more than four months at the end of 2019 before trying to get back into form for the tournament.
“I think ultimately the main thing was to start playing again, and I am,” Konta told reporters. “And how I physically felt out there is obviously a massive tick for me compared to where I was in September of last year.”
Nadal, Pliskova Start Strong Down Under
Meanwhile, the biggest names in the Australian Open field had little trouble with their overmatched opponents on Tuesday.
Men’s No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal made short work of Hugo Dellien in a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 victory. While Nadal was broken once in each of the first two sets, he had little trouble with Dellien, putting on a dominant display.
“It’s a positive start,” Nadal said. “What you want in the first round is to win, and straight sets is better.”
Other notable winners on Tuesday included women’s No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova, who took down Kristina Mladenovic 6-1, 7-5, and Daniil Medvedev, who needed four sets to get past American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Dominic Thiem, Simona Halep, Alexander Zverev, and Australian Nick Kyrgios also scored victories without much difficulty.
Second-round play begins at the Australian Open on Wednesday, with most of the top seeds expected to sail through to the next round. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Novak Djokovic (-8000) is a massive favorite over Japan’s Tatsuma Ito (+4300), while Federer (-2300) is expected to handle Filip Krajinovic (+1500). In women’s play, Naomi Osaka (-650) is heavily favored over Zheng Saisai (+490), while Serena Williams (-5000) should have little trouble with Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek (+2600).