Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova has been knocked out in the first round of the Kremlin Cup in front of a home crowd, losing to Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova 6-7 4-6.
Russian Sharapova hammered in seven aces during the game but committed three double faults and capitalized on just one of three break points in her tournament opener that lasted one hour and 55 minutes.
“I wouldn’t have come if the tournament was not staged in Moscow,” Sharapova said after the match, adding that she wanted to finish the tennis season on home soil where she is widely supported by her fans.
It was her first appearance at the Kremlin Cup since 2007.
In her previous meeting with Rybarikova in 2015, Sharapova outplayed her Slovakian counterpart in the quarterfinal of the hard-court event in Acapulco, Mexico.
Sharapova’s unexpected loss comes just two days after her triumph at the Tianjin Open in China where, in a nail-biting two-set thriller, the former world number one defeated 19-year-old Belarusian Arina Sobolenko 7-5, 7-6 to clinch her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban.
A 15-month break has dropped Sharapova down the world rankings and now the player is trying to restore her previously held lofty position in tennis. She has already climbed to world number 57 following last week’s victory in China.
Sharapova returned to the court in April following a Court of Arbitration in Sport [CAS] ruling that reduced her initial two-year ban to 15 months.
She did not take part in this year’s Roland Garros, as her request to get a wild card for the clay-court tournament was ignored by the French Open organizers.
Sharapova was forced to skip Wimbledon due to a thigh injury and came back on court in August after US Open officials granted her direct entry into the season’s final Grand Slam event.