Sharapova falls to Rybarikova in Moscow return

Reuters
Sharapova's first appearance at her home Women's Tennis Association event since 2007 came two days after she won her first WTA title in more than two years, the Tianjin Open.
Reuters
Reuters

Magdalena Rybarikova returns to Maria Sharapova of Russia during their Kremlin Cup first-round match in Moscow on October 17, 2017. The Slovak won 7-6 (3), 6-4.

Maria Sharapova lost 6-7 (3), 4-6 to Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova at the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday in her first match in Russia since returning from a doping ban this year.

The five-time grand slam champion looked tired and committed several unforced errors in the first-round match in Moscow as she was cheered on by a large crowd who chanted "Masha! Masha!" and loudly cheered her every winner.

Sharapova's first appearance at her home Women's Tennis Association event since 2007 came two days after she won her first WTA title in more than two years, the Tianjin Open.

Sharapova said that fatigue had not been a factor in her performance at the Kremlin Cup, crediting Rybarikova for a well-played match.

"I fought, I really tried to win this match but my opponent played well," Sharapova told a news conference after the match. "I felt fine physically given that I have just played five matches at the Tianjin Open."

The former world No. 1, now 57th in the rankings after rising 29 places following her Tianjin victory, returned to the tour in April after serving a 15-month doping ban for testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

She was unranked by the WTA upon her return but received wildcards to many tournaments for which a ranking is usually required to compete, a situation that prompted criticism from her rivals.

Canada's Eugenie Bouchard in April called Sharapova a "cheater" and criticized the WTA for sending the wrong message by welcoming her back.

In Russia, Sharapova has been portrayed as a victim of what officials have said is the unfair targeting of the country by international sports bodies that regulate anti-doping.

Russia's athletics federation, Paralympic Committee and anti-doping agency have been suspended over WADA-commissioned reports that found evidence of state-sponsored doping

Sharapova wasn't the biggest casualty on Tuesday; compatriot and fifth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also fell at the first hurdle.

The Russian, who won the Hong Kong Open early on Monday, was sent home by compatriot Daria Kasatkina 6-7 (2), 1-6.


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