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21 Jan, 2020 12:21

Sharapova on the verge of retirement? Russian tennis star says she doesn't know what's next after Australian Open loss

Sharapova on the verge of retirement? Russian tennis star says she doesn't know what's next after Australian Open loss

Former world number one player Maria Sharapova says she is unsure of her plans for the remainder of the tennis season after a disappointing first-round loss at the 2020 Australian Open.

The 32-year-old – who was given a wild card by the tournament’s organizers – failed to overcome the first-round barrier, losing to Croatia’s Donna Vekic in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.

READ MORE: Australian Open 2020: Svetlana Kuznetsova knocks out French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova

I don’t know,” Sharapova said after her insulting defeat. “I don’t know… It’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time.”

I just don’t know,” she went on to say. “I haven’t thought of my schedule moving forward from here yet,” she said, prompting speculation on her possible retirement.

Sharapova’s splendid tennis career, which saw her winning five Grand Slam titles, nosedived after she was slapped with a 15-month doping ban for taking meldonium.

The Russian said she had been taking the drug for 10 years on the advice of a family doctor and had overlooked the fact it had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances.

The most curious thing about Sharapova’s suspension was WADA’s decision to hold a so-called “meldonium amnesty” for those who stopped taking the drug after it was banned by the body, but still had traces of the drug in doping probes.

The decision was based on medical research claiming that meldonium has a long elimination period.

The announcement meant that Sharapova could have avoided the severe punishment if she hadn’t willingly admitted to taking the drug after it was declared illegal.

Having sat out the enforced hiatus, Sharapova returned to action in April 2017, with the French Open quarter-final in 2018 being her best achievement at a Grand Slam so far.

Given the modest results on her recent record – a far cry from her previous glory – Sharapova, who has dropped to 366th place in the rankings, might consider retirement from professional sport.