Not many will have expected two of the women's three top seeds to exit the 2014 Australian Open quite so early, but Monday, Jan. 20, saw Maria Sharapova follow Serena Williams out of the competition before the quarter-finals have even begun.
Commenting on her shock loss to Dominika Cibulkova, the Russian was humble in defeat, however, praising her Slovakian opponent, per CNN:
I haven't been playing the best tennis of this tournament, but I found ways to get through to the last two matches.
Tried to do that again today, but she played extremely well. I don't think it's rocket science. Just when you play a lot of tennis, you're going to get these types of aches and pains and certain movements that you feel it on.
It's admirable of Sharapova not to grumble about her early exit, shaking off any suggestion that injury could have played its part in her dismissal.
Sharapova looked ready to grasp victory by breaking her opponent three times before taking the first set. However, Cibulkova proved tough to take down, and it was ultimately the former's own mistakes that cost her the match, losing 6-3, 4-6, 1-6.
This year marks the first time since 2011 that the 26-year-old has failed to make it to at least the semi-finals of the Australia Open.
Tennis Warehouse ponders which superstar's defeat was the biggest upset this weekend via Twitter:
Sharapova's dismissal means that the platform is now wide open for No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka to stage a surge on the Australian Open title, a competition she's hoping to win for the third time in succession.
Cibulkova still has a long way ahead of her in extending her surprise bid for glory. Next up, the No. 20 seed faces Romanian hopeful Simona Halep, who has already eliminated Jelena Jankovic on her route to the quarter-finals.
Sharapova's admission comes as a refreshing acceptance of vulnerability that can sometimes be lost on other stars in the sport. The former tennis starlet has won just one Grand Slam trophy in the last five years, and will undoubtedly be all too aware of the pressure she faces in getting back to her best.
That being said, the Florida-based competitor is taking her revival the right way and will now look toward the French Open as she hopes to defend her 2013 title.
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