Maria Sharapova unsure of 2021 Australian Open entry as she crashes out of this year’s tournament

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Maria Sharapova’s precipitous tumble down the rankings continued after she was bundled out of the Australian Open first round by Donna Vekic.

And later she was unable to be sure about whether she will return next year to a tournament she won in 2008.

The former world No 1 is now projected to be ranked at a deeply modest 366 following a 6-3, 6-4 defeat on the Rod Laver Arena to the 19th seed from Croatia.

Sharapova was defending points from making the fourth round at this event last year, which is why she will now suffer a huge drop from her present position of 145, which already had her needing a wildcard.

The 32-year-old Russian remains a shadow of the player that she was before her drugs ban, and will need the charity of more privileged tournament entries if she is ever going to make it back near the top of the game.

Sharapova has played only eight tournaments since this event last year after suffering a repeat of shoulder problems that have dogged her career.

Among those have been the last three Grand Slam events, which have seen her lose in the first round every time.

In her latest despondent press conference she was unable to predict whether she will be back in 2021.

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘I was fortunate to get myself to be here and thankfully to Craig (Tiley, tournament director) and the team allowing me to be part of this event. It’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time.’

Sharapova was also vague about her more immediate plans, and where she might play next. Nor was she sure she will ever be able to get the required run of good health to allow her to be more competitive.

‘I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you if I can or if I will, but I would love to, yeah.’

She got to 4-1 up in the second set but then lost the next five games, her serve failing her.

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