First Serena Williams, now Maria Sharapova. Another day at the Australian Open, another top female star out of the season’s first grand slam.
One day after world No. 1 Williams was dumped out in Melbourne, third seed Sharapova followed suit as she surrendered a one-set lead against Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova to lose 3-6 6-4 6-1.
It was the second time 20th seed Cibulkova has beaten the Russian at a grand slam and Sharapova, who required treatment on a hip injury between the second and third sets, admitted her performances in Melbourne have not been good enough.
“I haven’t been playing the best tennis of this tournament, but I found ways to get through to the last two matches,” Sharapova, a winner of this tournament in 2008, told reporters.
“Tried to do that again today, but she played extremely well.”
Sharapova, a four-time grand slam winner, refused to blame the injury for her surprise defeat.
“I don’t think it’s rocket science,” added the 26-year-old. “Just when you play a lot of tennis, you’re going to get these types of aches and pains and certain movements that you feel it on.”
Cibulkova’s reward for reaching the last eight at Melbourne Park for the first time in her career is a match against 11th seed Simona Halep, who also eliminated a top 10 player in world No. 8 Jelena Jankovic.
Sharapova’s loss means double defending champion Victoria Azarenka is now the red hot favorite to win a third consecutive Australian Open title.
Azarenka’s cause will be helped by cooler temperatures, with players finally granted respite from last week’s scorching heat.
The world No. 2 is the only former champion left in the women’s draw after she confidently dispatched American rising star Sloane Stephens 6-3 6-2.