Newspaper article International New York Times

Another Day, Another Star Falls ; No. 3 Sharapova Follows Williams in Failing to Make Quarterfinals

Newspaper article International New York Times

Another Day, Another Star Falls ; No. 3 Sharapova Follows Williams in Failing to Make Quarterfinals

Article excerpt

A day after Serena Williams lost, the No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova fell to No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round after winning the first set.

One day after the heavy favorite Serena Williams lost to Ana Ivanovic, another multiple Grand Slam champion crashed out in the fourth round at the Australian Open.

On Monday, Maria Sharapova, a four-time Grand Slam champion and the No. 3 seed, lost to No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

For Cibulkova, it was a moment of exuberance. After shaking Sharapova's hand, she bounced back toward her player box, leaping several times and pumping her fists.

Cibulkova, of Slovakia, has never been ranked in the top 10, but her victory meant that she has now reached the quarterfinals at all four Grand Slam events.

Though she lost the third set fairly easily, Sharapova had given herself a good chance to win the second after falling behind, 0-5, eventually digging back to 4-5 before missing several crucial returns of second serves that allowed Cibulkova to serve out the set on her third try.

After losing the second set, Sharapova walked off the court with a trainer and received an off-court medical timeout for what she later said was a hip strain.

"I mean, those aches and pains are expected when you spend a long time on the court," she said, though she later added that knowing how such pain would have affected her movements was not "rocket science."

Cibulkova said she did not see that Sharapova was visibly affected by the injury, and added that she thought Sharapova was trying to disrupt her momentum throughout the match.

"I didn't see during the rallies," Cibulkova said. "She was running, and, I don't know. Of course I knew that she took the medical timeout, but she was trying to change my rhythm a lot of times during the games."

It wasn't the first time Cibulkova had beaten Sharapova at a Grand Slam, having previously routed her, 6-0, 6-2, in the quarterfinals of the 2009 French Open.

"This is, I would say, the most important thing," Cibulkova said. "I went on the court, and I was more than 100 percent sure that I really can beat her. I can beat her on the big court, in the important match, you know, on the Grand Slam. I did it before, and I knew she knows me."

Sharapova, who had to battle in extreme heat for three and a half hours last Thursday to beat Karin Knapp, 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 in their second-round match, said her ability to escape with less than her best tennis had run out. Sharapova had been forced to miss the United States Open with a shoulder injury, and had only been able to play one tournament between August and the Australian Open.

"I haven't been playing the best tennis of this tournament, but I found ways to get through to the last two matches," she said. "I tried to do that again today, but she played extremely well. …

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