Sharapova can't build on Tianjin win

Maria Sharapova (above) of Russia in action against Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in the Kremlin Cup first round in Moscow yesterday. Rybarikova had to grind her way to victory, likening the atmosphere to that for the Fed Cup.
Maria Sharapova (above) of Russia in action against Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in the Kremlin Cup first round in Moscow yesterday. Rybarikova had to grind her way to victory, likening the atmosphere to that for the Fed Cup.PHOTO: REUTERS
Maria Sharapova of Russia in action against Magdalena Rybarikova (above) of Slovakia in the Kremlin Cup first round in Moscow yesterday. Rybarikova had to grind her way to victory, likening the atmosphere to that for the Fed Cup.
Maria Sharapova of Russia in action against Magdalena Rybarikova (above) of Slovakia in the Kremlin Cup first round in Moscow yesterday. Rybarikova had to grind her way to victory, likening the atmosphere to that for the Fed Cup.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW • Maria Sharapova lost 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 to Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova at the Kremlin Cup yesterday in her first match in Russia since returning from a doping ban this year.

The five-time Grand Slam champion looked tired and committed 46 unforced errors in the first-round match, as she was cheered on by a large crowd who chanted "Masha! Masha!" and loudly clapped each of her 31 winners.

Sharapova's first appearance at her home WTA event since 2007 came two days after she won her first title in more than two years, the Tianjin Open. The former world No. 1 is now 57th in the rankings after rising 29 places following her win victory on Sunday.

She said: "I fought, I really tried to win this match but my opponent played well. I felt fine physically given that I have just played five matches at the Tianjin Open."

The top 10 remains unchanged, with Romania's Simona Halep at No. 1, ahead of Spain's Garbine Muguruza before the WTA Finals in Singapore starting on Sunday.

Sharapova, 30, returned to the tour in April after serving a 15-month doping ban for testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open last year. She was unranked upon her return but received wild cards to many tournaments for which a ranking is usually required to compete.

However, she left many home fans disappointed after Rybarikova sealed victory in 1hr 55min.

"It was very difficult for me, because it felt like Fed Cup. It's absolutely normal, Maria is a huge superstar here and she's a real champion," Rybarikova said according to the WTA website. "I'm happy that I went through this match, and it's good for my confidence. I'm very happy with that."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Sharapova can't build on Tianjin win'. Print Edition | Subscribe