Australian Open 2020: Sharapova’s last appearance in Melbourne? Maria non-committal on return

Maria Sharapova was asked about her future after a straight-sets loss to Donna Vekic in the Australian Open first round.

Has the Australian Open seen the last of Maria Sharapova? The 2008 champion is not sure following her first-round exit on Tuesday.

Sharapova crashed out in the opening round of the Australian Open for the first time since 2010 after going down 6-3 6-4 to 19th seed Donna Vekic in Melbourne.

A five-time grand slam champion, Sharapova has struggled for form and fitness following just 15 appearances in 2019 as her stunning fall from grace since a 15-month drugs ban – which expired in 2017 – continued.

Former world number one Sharapova suffered her third consecutive loss in the opening round of a slam after early exits at Wimbledon and the US Open.

Asked whether the prospect of not returning to the Australian Open has crossed her mind, Sharapova told reporters: “I don’t know. I don’t know. I was fortunate to get myself to be here and thankful to [Tennis Australia CEO] Craig [Tiley] and the team allowing me to be part of this event. It’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time.”

Sharapova’s season was interrupted by injuries last year, with the 32-year-old Russian star posting an 8-7 win-loss record.

Question marks over Sharapova’s future are set to intensify as the world number 145 – who received a wildcard for this year’s event – is projected to drop outside of the WTA’s top 350.

“I would like to,” Sharapova said when asked if her body is capable of holding up to feature in more tournaments. “I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you if I can or if I will, but I would love to, yeah.”

Sharapova added: “It’s tough to say I’m on the right track right now 45 minutes after the match. But, I mean, there is no way to get out of it except to keep believing in yourself, because if you do do all the right things and you don’t believe in yourself, then that’s probably a bad formula.”

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