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Sharapova's turn to say goodbye

Updated: 2014-01-21 07:14
By Reuters in Melbourne ( China Daily)

Aching Russian star bounced by gritty Slovakian a day after Serena's departure

Picking up her racket bag and marching straight out of Rod Laver Arena without a nod or a wave, Maria Sharapova's abrupt exit after her fourth-round loss to Dominika Cibulkova on Monday spoke volumes of her disdain for a forgettable Australian Open.

After a long layoff and with doubts surrounding the state of her troublesome right shoulder, the 26-year-old entered the tournament with only four matches of preparation and with rust caked on so thick she could not shake it off.


Sharapova's turn to say goodbye

Dominika Cibulkova reacts during her fourth-round match against Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open on Monday. Petar Kujundzic / Reuters

She had enough fight to survive three tests against unheralded opponents at Melbourne Park, but against 24th seed Cibulkova, a tenacious counter-puncher who has worried the Russian in the past, the wheels fell off.

The shoulder was put to one side as a hip strain came to the fore, and the 2008 champion took a medical time-out between the second and third sets of the 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 loss.

Blaming injuries has never been Sharapova's way, and the Russian has grit her teeth and toughed it out before on her way to winning four grand slam titles.

"I don't think it's rocket science. Just when you play a lot of tennis, you are going to get these types of aches and pains and certain movements that you feel it on," she said glumly.

"I certainly would have loved to play a little bit more before playing a Grand Slam, but this is the chance that I was given.

"I am smart enough to be able to take it and acknowledge that I am still pretty lucky to be in the draw and giving myself a chance to try to win it."

Even though she was playing well below her best, Sharapova's early exit may be counted as an opportunity lost after long-time nemesis Serena Williams was dumped out of the tournament by Ana Ivanovic on Sunday.

However, Sharapova said she was unlikely to mope around for long.

"I came back from an injury and I feel happy to give myself that opportunity to try to get back and play well, and I want to take it," she said.

"I don't want to just, because I know if I'm going to be sitting around everyone else will take it. It's either try and take it yourself, or just saying, you know, I can do other things in my life.

"I have always been a go-getter in my career, not just in tennis, and I still believe in that. I feel I have that type of motivation and drive, I'll always be there." Sharapova, despite being rusty after missing the latter part of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury, had been expected to comfortably advance against the diminutive Slovakian despite Cibulkova having beaten her in a Grand Slam before.

Cibulkova overcame Sharapova on her preferred surface of clay at the 2009 French Open and it was the first time the pair had met on hard courts which should have favored the Russian's power game, though the Slovakian was supremely confident.

"I went on the court, and I was ... 100 percent sure that I really can beat her. I can beat her on the big court, in the important match, you know, on the Grand Slam," Cibulkova said.

"I did it before, and I knew she knows me. I also knew that she knows it is going to be a tough match."

A surprised Cibulkova also said, "actually I didn't know", when told she had made her first quarterfinal at Melbourne Park.

"I just realize now. It is great, you know. I think this was the only Grand Slam where I just had my fourth round and a couple of bad losses. It feels great and especially I played well and it was a tough match.

"I came out from one set down. This is what makes me really strong and proud of myself."