MELBOURNE — Maria Sharapova spoiled Caroline Wozniacki’s hope of defending her lone Grand Slam title when they played under-the-roof on an occasionally rainy day in Melbourne on Friday.
The 30th-seeded Sharapova rebounded from trailing the third-seeded Wozniacki 4-1 in the first set, then lost the second set, to eventually secure passage to the fourth round with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win.
The smile on Sharapova’s face in victory couldn’t have been broader, and when blowing kisses to the crowd she mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
“I thought the level was quite high,” she told the crowd. “I know she’s the defending champion and she loves this arena. This is what I train for, to win the last point.
“Experience is priceless, but you still have to work for it because the player on the other side has experience, too.”
There’s been 21 women who have defended an Australian Open. The last to do it was Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in 2012-13.
Sharapova’s third-round victory over Wozniacki re-established the Russian presence at the Australian Open. Last year was the first time since 1998 that a Russian woman failed to advance to the fourth round.
In 2008, Sharapova became the only Russian woman to ever to win the Australian Open title. She has captured five Grand Slam trophies in her career.
Sharapova was out of action for 15 months after testing positive for a banned substance while reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals. She returned to the tour in April 2017, and has had mixed results and dealt with a number of niggling injuries.
Sharapova was punching her forehand with precision during the match, which created all kinds of difficulties for Wozniacki. But in the end, it was a backhand cross-court shot that sealed the deal for Sharapova on a second match point.
This was the first time in nearly four years that Sharapova and Wozniacki were mixing it up on a tennis court. Sharapova now leads their head-to-head by 7-4 now, but this marks her first victory over the Dane at a Grand Slam.
Wozniacki defeated Sharapova twice at the U.S. Open, in the fourth-round in 2010 and 2014.
The 28-year-old Wozniacki revealed at the year-end tournament in Singapore in October that she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the summer of 2018.
Sharapova will play Australian favorite Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round.