Melbourne : Slovakia’s Dominika Cubulkova knocked out third seed Maria Sharapova in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday. The four-time major-winner was knocked out in the fourth round by Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, the second upset in less than 24 hours after world number one Serena Williams was sent packing.
Sharapova quickly went 0-5 down in the second. She rallied to win four straight games, only for Cibulkova to serve the set out at the third time of trying.
The Slovakian then dominated the decider, setting up a quarterfinal against No.11 seed and Romania’s Simona Halep, who reached her career-first last eight at a Grand Slam tournament with victory over former World No.1 Jelena Jankovic.
Sharapova’s loss continued her poor run since she lost to Williams in the French Open final last year. She was bundled out in the second round at Wimbledon and withdrew from the US Open with a shoulder injury.
Cibulkova will meet Romania’s Simona Halep, who eliminated Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 2-6, 6-0, in the quarterfinals.
“The most important thing was that I went on the court 100 percent believing I could win,” Cibulkova said.
“I kept going. I’ve beaten Maria before in the grand slams and the most important thing is to believe in yourself.”
The Romanian complained about Sharapova’s toss of ball.
“When the match was coming to the end, I was getting like a little bit angry about that (ball toss). I was keep talking to myself, why is she doing that? I thought it was on purpose.”
The absence of Williams and Sharapova opens the door for two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka and two-time runner-up Li Na.
The Russian star Maria Sharapova later revealed she was struggling with a hip injury but refused to blame it for her shock loss and insisted she will bounce back.
Third seed Sharapova took a medical timeout between the second and third sets and she said her left hip was troubling her after two tough matches earlier in the tournament.
“I have a bit of a strain the trainer told me in the hip area,” said the Russian, who only came back from a shoulder injury at the Brisbane International this month.
“I mean, those aches and pains are expected when you spend a long time on the court. You just have to play through it.”
She added: “I think it was just because I played a lot. This is only my second tournament back, so it was those types of things that are expected. You just have to find a way to block them out.”
Sharapova had endured two tough matches before meeting the Slovak, including a three-and-a-half hour epic in intense heat in the second round against Italy’s Karin Knapp.
She admitted she had not been playing well, but said it was just good to be back in action after the shoulder injury sidelined her for months.
“I think it’s a success (the tournament) in terms of that I’m back and that I’m healthy. That’s quite important. Otherwise I wouldn’t give myself a chance to play,” she said.
“So on that note, yeah, I have to look at the positives and see where I have come from in four or five months. I haven’t played a lot of tennis in those six months.
“So 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’m smart enough to be able to take it and acknowledge that I’m still pretty lucky to be in the draw and giving myself a chance to try to win it.”