Sharapova's quest halted by Cibulkova roadblock

Mon Jan 20, 2014 12:08am EST
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(Reuters) - Maria Sharapova's quest for a second Australian Open title was halted in the fourth round on Monday when the third seeded Russian ran out of steam against an inspired Dominika Cibulkova, who emerged with a 3-6 6-4 6-1 victory on Rod Laver Arena.

After her Slovakian opponent had leveled the match, the 2008 champion took a medical time-out before and third set for treatment on a hip injury but Sharapova was reluctant to use that as an excuse for her shock defeat.

"Those aches and pains are expected when you spend a long time on the court," Sharapova said after she became the second former champion to crash out in the fourth round following world number one Serena Williams' loss on Sunday.

"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."

Sharapova, despite being rusty after missing the latter part of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury had been expected to comfortably advance against the diminutive Slovakian despite Cibulkova having beaten her in a grand slam before.

Cibulkova overcame Sharapova on her preferred surface of clay at the 2009 French Open and it was the first time the pair had met on hard courts which should have favored the Russian's power game, though the Slovakian was supremely confident.

"I went on the court, and I was... 100 percent sure that I really can beat her. I can beat her on the big court, in the important match, you know, on the grand slam," Cibulkova said.

"I did it before, and I knew she knows me. I also knew that she knows it's going to be a tough match."   Continued...

Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia hits a return to Maria Sharapova of Russia during their women's singles match at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 20, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray