Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki fell in the third round of the Australian Open 2019, beaten by former champ and No.30 seed Maria Sharapova 6-4 4-6 6-3 in a breath-taking clash on Rod Laver Arena.
It was the runner versus the gunner on Rod Laver Arena, as this clash of former champs and former world No.1s lived up to the billing. As quick as Wozniacki may be, she didn’t have enough answers in the face of a 37-strong barrage of winners from Sharapova, who will face Australian No.1 Ash Barty for a spot in the quarter-finals.
“I knew I was going to get a tough match, she is the defending champion and it’s no secret that she loves this arena,” Sharapova said. “I haven’t played many matches in the last year, especially against top players, and these are the types of matches that I train for. It’s really rewarding to win that last point.”
The 2008 champion had made a blistering start to the tournament, dropping just three games in her first two matches, but had lost four inside the first five games as Wozniacki hared out to a 4-1 lead. But any notion that the defending champion would have it all her own way ended over the next five games. Wozniacki had simply set the pace, and Sharapova caught up at a full sprint.
The contest had simmered until that point but burst into life at the start of the eighth game, Sharapova scrambling and lobbing a left-handed forehand to keep the first point alive before hammering an unreturnable backhand that proved too hot for the Dane.
It was the last of her back-to-the-wall tennis for the rest of the set as a stunned Wozniacki was left chasing drive after blistering drive, blasting a ball into the stands after netting a short backhand to slip 5-4 down. Sharapova’s only blip came when serving for the set, flubbing her first two chances to serve out from 40-0 before arrowing a forehand down the line that left the defending champion for dead, her 16th winner of the match.