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Maria Sharapova's Wimbledon return falls flat as she throws it away

 

By Andy Sims

Maria Sharapova's Wimbledon return ended in defeat as she blew a vast lead to crash out against fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.

The 31-year-old was making her first appearance at the All England Club in three years having served a doping ban and then withdrawn from qualifying through injury 12 months ago.

It was also her first appearance on grass in that time, having pulled out of competing in Birmingham last month.

The 2004 Wimbledon champion won the first set on a tie-break and was a game away in the second - leading 5-2 - from passage into round two.

But Diatchenko broke back, took the ensuing tie-break and prevailed in the third to win 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.

After Sharapova secured a break of serve in the first set, Diatchenko needed a medical time-out for what appeared to be a hip injury. Yet the World No.132 did not seem in too much discomfort as she promptly broke straight back for 4-4.

Sharapova was too strong in the tie-break and converted the first of three match points with an ace.

A solitary break at the start of the second looked like proving decisive until Sharapova was pegged back again, and this time Diatchenko made it count.

Again Sharapova broke early in the decider, and again Diatchenko hit straight back. Then, serving to stay in the match, Sharapova bowed out limply with a 10th double fault on match point sealing her fate.

Garbine Muguruza, meanwhile, said it was business as usual after getting the defence of her Wimbledon title off to a winning start against Naomi Broady.

The Spaniard was the queen of Centre Court in 2017, beating Venus Williams in the final, and enjoyed her return there with a 6-2 7-5 success over the British No.4.

"I don't feel different," she said. "I do feel more confident knowing that I won Wimbledon. It's a Grand Slam. It's a grass court. It gives you this extra thing not everybody can have.

"When you win Wimbledon, I think it's winning the best tournament. Your mind is like, 'I won Wimbledon, priceless'."

Angelique Kerber got her campaign off to the best possible start with a straight-sets win over Vera Zvonareva.

The German, a 2016 finalist and former World No.1, beat the Russian 7-5 6-3.

Dominika Cibulkova put her seedings disappointment behind her by beating Alize Cornet.

The Slovakian is ranked 32 in the world, usually enough to be seeded at a Slam, but missed out due to Wimbledon's decision to hand a seed to Serena Williams. She contested the decision but let her tennis do the talking against the Frenchwoman, winning 7-6 (7-4) 6-1.

Ashleigh Barty, the 17th seed, made it to the second round for the first time in her career, beating Stefanie Voegele 7-5 6-3.

British No.6 Gabi Taylor put up a brave fight but her maiden senior Wimbledon outing ended in a 6-0 4-6 6-3 defeat to 2014 finalist Eugenie Bouchard.

Belfast Telegraph

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