MELBOURNE, Australia – Third-seeded Maria Sharapova followed No. 1 Serena Williams out of the Australian Open in the fourth round, as the Russian lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to Dominika Cibulkova on Sunday in the second major upset in 24 hours at Rod Laver Arena.
Sharapova struggled with her serve starting from the eighth game, when she was broken at love while trying to serve out the first set.
She was broken in four straight games as the 20th-seeded Cibulkova, who is from Slovakia, raced to a 5-0 lead in the second set — during which time Sharapova won three points on her own serve.
The four-time major winner rallied to win four straight games before Cibulkova held serve to level the match. After taking an off-court medical timeout after the second set for a hip strain, Sharapova had seven double-faults in the third set.
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Sharapova, who was two tournaments into a comeback from a prolonged layoff with a right-shoulder injury, won the Australian Open title in 2008 and has lost in two other finals at Melbourne Park.
“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,” Sharapova said. “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.”
No. 11 Simona Halep of Romania beat eighth-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 and will face Cibulkova in the quarters.
Williams, a five-time Australian Open champion, was knocked out in a three-set loss to 14th-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia on Saturday. The American later revealed she had a back problem.
Meanwhile, two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus advanced to the quarterfinal round by defeating American Sloane Stephens, the 13th seed, 6-3, 6-2.
Second-seeded Azarenka has won 18 matches in a row at Melbourne Park.
In last year’s semifinal round, Azarenka took a medical timeout when it appeared Stephens was getting momentum, then came back and won the match.
On Sunday, Stephens accidentally hit Azarenka in the hip area with a shot at the net, and Azarenka sent a forehand whizzing past Stephens a few games later.
There was little tension, though, after Azarenka broke Stephens’ serve to open the second set and then again to take a 5-2 lead.
Azarenka didn’t sound as if the exits by Williams and Sharapova would make her overconfident.
“The players who beat those players deserve all the credit because they’ve been better, so they are dangerous and they are competitive,” Azarenka said. “For me, it’s important to just keep focusing on my game.”
Sharapova’s boyfriend, 22-year-old Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, advanced to his first Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal — in his 14th attempt. He beat Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.