After going out in her opening-round match at the Australian Open for the first time in a decade, five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova was on Tuesday pondering her tennis future.

The five-time Grand Slam winner, whose ranking is projected to tumble to an unheard-of 366th, was trying to absorb the enormity of her 6-3, 6-4 loss as a wild card to Croat Donna Vekic.

Donna Vekic beats Maria Sharapova in a first round round match. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

In the immediate aftermath of defeat, the LA-based Russian could not even say if she would be returning to Melbourne Park in 2021.

The setback was her third straight loss in the first round at a major.

“I don’t know, I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you if I can (come back) or if I will, but I would love to,” she said.

Sharapova said she had not figured out her future schedule and could not say when she might return to Italy to train with new coach Ricardo Piatti.

She hesitated to say if she would be back in Melbourne in a year’s time.

“I was fortunate to get myself to be here. It’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months time.”

The Russian won the open in 2008 but lost in the first round two years later.

Johanna Konta was another shock first round loser.  Photo: Anne Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd/Alamy Live News

Sharapova played a limited schedule in 2019 due to shoulder problems. She stared working with Italian uber-coach Ricardo Piatti at his training base on the Riviera last autumn, spending up to two months at his coastal camp.

Sharapova is refusing to put any parameters on her future.

“Last year I think I played seven or eight tournaments so I don’t know if I can look at the ranking and really think about it in depth,” she said.

“Just because I really haven’t played and I was injured most of the year. I certainly have to take that into account.

“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. I was there, I put myself out there (playing).

“As tough as it was, I finished the match – it wasn’t the way that I wanted.”

Meanwhile, No. 2 Karolina Piskova led the way for seeds on Tuesday, advancing to the second round 6-1, 7-5 over Kristina Mladenovic. The Czech struck 20 winners and saved six of seven break points.

Swiss sixth seed Belinda Bencic came back form almost 4-0 down in the second to complete a 6-3, 7-5 win over Slovak Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
“It was a pretty tough match, I feel like always when I play her,” Bencic said.

“I’m really happy. First rounds are always difficult. You’re trying to find your rhythm, your kind of groove.

Belinda Bencic eased into the second round. Photo: Anne Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd/Alamy Live News

“I won today and have another shot in the next match.”

Australian-born British No. 1 Johann Konta made a swift exit, losing to Tunisia’s No. 78 Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-2.
Konta seeded 12th, was playing with a knee injury that ended her 2019 early and failed to improve in the brief off-season.
Konta reached the semi-finals here in 2016, but was out of control with 19 unforced errors against her Arab opponent, who has never won a round at the event in four previous tries.
Jabeur followed up on her defeat of Konta last summer at Eastbourne.
Konta said a lack of matches – she’s only had two this season – hurt her performance.

“It’s part of the sport and it’s part of also the way I play. It’s something that will come with time and matches.

Johanna Konta made a swift exit, losing to Tunisia’s No. 78 Ons Jabeur. Photo: Anne Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd/Alamy Live News

“Ultimately the main thing was to start playing again, and I am. How I felt physically out there is obviously a massive tick for me compared to where I was in September.”

Former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza, who withdrew with a viral illness from Hobart last week, called a doctor onto the court as she trailed Shelby Rogers 5-0.
The Spaniard had her pulse checked during the medical timeout, then roared back to complete a 0-6, 6-1, 6-0.
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