Caroline Wozniacki’s face showed how much it hurt to lose… and there will be no love lost when Maria Sharapova faces Australian Ashleigh Barty
- Maria Sharapova produced a thunderous display to beat Caroline Wozniacki
- The current Australian Open champion was beaten by the aggressive Russian
- Sharapova played some of her best tennis in recent memory to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
The pained look on Caroline Wozniacki’s face revealed how much it hurt to lose to a player who is one of her oldest adversaries on and off the court.
Not only had she lost her Australian Open title, she had lost a battle against Maria Sharapova that was always going to be more than just a tennis match.
There was no doubt, however, that Sharapova deserved to win and move forward to an intriguing match against the hugely popular Australian No 1 Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round.
Maria Sharapova put on a stunning display at the Australian Open to beat Caroline Wozniacki
She unleashed a huge roar after what was one of her finest performances in recent years
There was mutual respect between the players at the end following a three-set epic match
The manner in which Sharapova won 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 suggests that she will be well-equipped to handle a partisan crowd.
This might be the fortnight when Sharapova finally roars again — and not just in terms of the ear-piercing yelp that accompanies her every stroke.
There will be no love lost between her and the Rod Laver Arena when she meets Queenslander Barty, and there was an expected froideur as she tackled the Dane in their first meeting since Sharapova’s return from her drug ban in April 2017.
Sharapova went in as the underdog but quickly established her authority on the encounter
Wozniacki was among the players most critical of the Russian being given wildcards to ease her return from suspension and when she lobbied against Sharapova receiving one for the French Open — which was ultimately refused — Sharapova’s agent Max Eisenbud described her as a journeyman who was fearful of his client preventing her from winning a Grand Slam.
Wozniacki was not in a mood to further stir ancient resentments after a defeat in which she was consistently overpowered, although there was a reference to her rival’s famous aloofness.
‘Our terms are the same as they have always been,’ she said of Sharapova. ‘She doesn’t really talk to anybody and just, you know, has her team and has her own thing, and that’s that. I do my own thing. I have my friends, and that’s it. We are just playing, we are on tour.’
The shrieking Russian held her nerve in the crucial points to beat the defending champion
Nor was the Russian inclined to rub it in: ‘I just really like winning,’ she said. ‘I’m just really happy and proud of the way I competed today and I’m into the fourth round. So that’s all that matters.’
There was an old school feel about her match against Wozniacki, in contrast to the glimpse of the future offered by the 6-3, 6-2 victory of 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova over Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who are both being tipped as future world No 1s.
Anisimova, who now plays Petra Kvitova, is the daughter of Russian immigrants and was born in Bruce Springsteen’s hometown of Freehold in New Jersey.
With an elder sister who also showed promise, they moved to Florida for more coaching and competition opportunities, and it was Amanda who turned out to have outstanding ability. It is a familiar-sounding story.
She already looks much better than her ranking of 87, and unlike some of the better young players, she seems to know how to work the point, not just bludgeoning one ball after the other, which is a refreshing sight.
Wozniacki never looked in control of the contest and will take a hit in the rankings with defeat