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Maria Sharapova joins A-lister Serena in discard pile

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 - 9:00am IST | Place: Asadabad, Afghanistan | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Who would have expected Maria Sharapova to be cast in the role of Wag for the second week of the -Australian Open?
  • AFP

Who would have expected Maria Sharapova to be cast in the role of Wag for the second week of the -Australian Open? At most grand slams, she has comfortably outlasted her equally photogenic boyfriend, the exciting Bulgarian prospect Grigor Dimitrov, who has a reputation for fading in five-set matches.

It was Dimitrov who fought his way into his first major quarter-final yesterday (Monday), however, while Sharapova was -eliminated by the diminutive 20th seed, Dominika Cibulkova.

Last night she had yet to reveal whether she planned to return home or don the big sunglasses and take up a place in the players' box.

This result landed Sharapova in the same discard pile as fellow A-lister Serena Williams, after the world No?1's defeat by Ana Ivanovic 24 hours earlier. Both women complained of physical ailments - a bad back for Williams and a strained hip for Sharapova - though they also ran into a couple of inspired opponents.

As with Ivanovic, the closer -Cibulkova got to victory the harder she swung and the more cleanly she -connected. "The most important thing is that I went on the court more than 100 per cent sure that I really can beat her," she said, in reference to her previous win against -Sharapova at the 2009 French Open.

The shortest woman in the top 100 at just 5ft 3in, Cibulkova is a seriously intense character. She used to work with Zeljko Krajan, the saturnine coach who spent a few months with Laura Robson last year, and there cannot have been too many laughs during their training sessions.

More recently, she has found a greater work-life balance through travelling with her partner Miso -Navara - a Hab, perhaps? "He is with me 24/7," she said, although the intensity of the sport means that they have yet to organise their wedding, two years after getting engaged. Sharapova, the third seed, and Dimitrov have also relished the opportunity to spend time together, at the grand slams (the WTA and ATP tours tend not to -coincide too much otherwise).

Sharapova's schedule took an unexpected turn after Wim-bledon last year, however, when the Russian developed inflammation in her shoulder that limited her to one more match for the rest of the season. Even now, she looks short of time on court.

"I have to look at the positives and see where I have come from," she said yesterday. "I haven't played a lot of tennis in those six months.

"It's moments like this that ultimately shape you and make you who you are. It's easy just to be successful, but it's how many times you're able to come back from the tough moments and losses and injuries that really define who you are as an athlete.

And that's why I'm here, because I believe I still can be up there and certainly can play better, that's for sure." Meanwhile, Victoria Azarenka needed only 90 minutes to deal with Sloane Stephens, the talented American who gave her such palpitations a year ago that she was forced to call a controversial medical time-out.

These two players are understood to loathe each other, and there were a couple of tasty moments on the court yesterday. First Stephens drove a ball into Azarenka's midriff from short range, and then a few moments later she had to duck as an Azarenka volley went whistling just over her head.

Still, both women share one agent and they managed to avoid any name-calling in the press conferences after Azarenka's 6-3, 6-2 win. 

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