Indian Wells: Maria Sharapova crashes to a first round defeat
Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova’s woes on the WTA Tour continue after the former World No. 1 slumped to a first round defeat at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California on Wednesday. Sharapova went down 4-6, 4-6 to the 44th ranked Naomi Osaka of Japan in 1 hour 35 minutes.
The Russian had made a bright start to the 2018 season, reaching the semi-finals at the Shenzen Open in her first tournament of the year. She then made it to the third round of the Australian Open, where she bowed out to eventual semi-finalist and former champion Angelique Kerber.
Since then, the 30-year-old has been struggling and crashed out in the first round at Doha. With her latest loss at Indian Wells, she is now on a three-match losing streak.
Sharapova, who won this event in 2006 and 2013, fell behind 1-4 in the first set against Osaka before fighting back to even the set at 4-4. But the Japanese, who reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, did not let the comeback bother her and grabbed the set as Sharapova double faulted on set point.
In a similar fashion, the former champion trailed early in the second set as well. She did manage to level matters at 4-4 but could not keep the momentum going as Osaka carved out a vital service break to complete the win.
Sharapova finished with six double faults and three breaks of serve while dropping her own serve five times.
In some of the other matches of the day, wildcard Eugenie Bouchard too headed the exit route with a 3-6, 4-6 defeat to the 100th ranked Sachia Vickery. This was the 2014 Wimbledon runner-up’s fourth loss of the season against just three wins.
Former US Open champion Samantha Stosur came back from a set down to register a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Lauren Davis. Belinda Bencic had to work hard to grind out a 1-6, 6-1, 6-6(4) win over Hungary’s Timea Babos.
Serena and Azarenka headline Thursday's action
On Thursday, all eyes will be on Serena Williams as she plays her first match on the WTA Tour since giving birth to daughter Olympia in September. The former World No. 1, who is unranked for the first time in 20 years, faces the World No. 53 Zarina Diyas in the first round.
Also in action will be two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka, who has been granted a wildcard this time. The two-time Major winner takes on the 70th ranked Heather Watson in her opener.