MELBOURNE, AFP: Former world number one Maria Sharapova shrugged off her failure to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday, saying she still believes she can increase her tally of five Grand Slam titles.
Maria Sharapova (AP)
The 31-year-old Russian was competitive during periods of her fourth-round clash with local hope Ashleigh Barty but ultimately lost in three sets after her serve fell apart mid-match.
Sharapova insisted she was still a Grand Slam contender, despite struggling with a shoulder injury and facing a new generation of players eager for success at the majors.
“I think it would be tough for me to be doing all the work and putting in all the effort if I didn’t really believe that,” she said. “I think I’d be kidding myself.” Sharapova was seeded 30 this year as she seeks to rejoin the game’s elite after coming back from a 15-month doping ban in 2017.
She said there were positives to take from her Australian Open campaign, including eliminating defending champion and world number three Caroline Wozniacki in the third round.
“I had a great match a couple of days ago, I could have lost that one and I didn’t,” she said. “I pulled through and I had opportunities today to win.” Sharapova refused to discuss the positive drug test, from a sample taken at the 2016 Australian Open, that led to her suspension.
“Is there another question?” she responded when asked if she had found an alternative to the banned drug to treat her troublesome shoulder.
Sharapova also dismissed as “silly” a query on whether boos from the Australian crowd had contributed to her 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 loss to the hometown favourite Barty.