Maria Sharapova rolls back the years to stun Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki with thunderous display in three-set epic
- 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
Maria Sharapova claimed one of her best wins since coming back from suspension when she prevailed in her no-love-lost Australian Open third round against Caroline Wozniacki.
The 31-year-old Russian overpowered the defending champion 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to set up a last-16 match against home favourite Ashleigh Barty.
‘I haven’t played many matches in the past year especially against top players so it’s very rewarding,’ said Sharapova. ‘Experience is priceless but you still have to work for it. ‘
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
Wozniacki hit just 10 winners to her opponent’s 37 and had her second serve severely dealt with.
For Sharapova it was a huge boost after ending last season early due to recurring shoulder injuries.
This was the first match they have played against each other since Sharapova’s return from her drug ban in April 17.
Sharapova went in as the underdog but quickly established her authority on the encounter
Wozniacki was among the players most critical of the way that the Russian was given wildcards to ease her return back from suspension.
When the Dane lobbied against Sharapova receiving a wildcard for the French Open that year – which was ultimately refused – the Russian’s agent Max Eisenbud described her as a ‘journeyman’ who was fearful of his client preventing her from winning a Grand Slam.
Wozniacki was to win a Major at this venue a year ago, but has since revealed that she is suffering from the early onset of arthritis, which can affect her on some days more than others.
The shrieking Russian held her nerve in the crucial points to beat the defending champion
Sharapova’s superior firepower caused problems from the start yesterday, but the defending champion seemed to have the match under control at 4-1, profiting from the errors of a more aggressive opponent.
But the Russian’s big forehands and returns began to fire properly, and she reeled off five straight games before a succession of double faults gave Wozniacki the lead in the second set.
The Dane led 3-0 but, looking slightly under-powered compared to a year ago, again could not drive home the advantage was quickly pulled back.
Wozniacki never looked in control of the contest and will take a hit in the rankings with defeat
She levelled the match, though, by breaking serve at 5-4, winning the set despite hitting just one outright winner in its whole duration.
Wozniacki’s inability to hit through the court was her problem all match, but it was the potency of Sharapova’s returns that got her the key break for 4-3 in the decider.
The Dane went surprisingly quietly, the first of the top eight seeds to be eliminated.