MELBOURNE: Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova admitted she does not know if she will be back at the Australian Open next year after suffering a first-round defeat in Melbourne on Tuesday.
According to the details, The former world number one, playing on a wildcard, is set to drop below 350 in the rankings following her 3-6, 4-6 defeat to Croatia’s 19th-seeded Donna Vekic.
It was the 32-year-old Sharapova’s third first-round exit in a row at Grand Slam tournaments, and will increase speculation over her future.
The Russian cut a disconsolate figure in her post-match press conference and, asked whether she will be here next year, she replied: “I don’t know.
“I was fortunate to get myself to be here and thankful to (tournament director) 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, banned for 15 months for failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open, was unable to say whether she would return next year.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” said the Russian, already ranked a lowly 145th, when asked by AFP if she would be back at Melbourne Park in 2021.
For a brief moment Tuesday, it looked as if Sharapova would be answering questions about the signature comeback she had so desperately been seeking. She held a 4-1 lead in the second set but then lost the final five games. It was all over in less than an hour and a half.