MELBOURNE, Australia - Former No.1 Maria Sharapova bowed out in the first round of the 2020 Australian Open, losing 6-3, 6-4 to 19th seed Donna Vekic. After the match, Sharapova told reporters she was uncertain about her future in the sport.
A champion in Melbourne in 2008, Sharapova was asked whether she might have played just played her final Australian Open.
"I don't know," Sharapova told reporters. "I was fortunate to get myself to be here and thankfully to Craig [Tiley] 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."
Having made the Round of 16 last year, Sharapova is set to fall outside the Top 300 after the Australian Open. As a former Slam champion, the Russian may accept an unlimited number of wildcards into events as she looks for match-play, but she said she had not thought much about what her schedule might be going forward.
"Honestly, I'd give you the answer, I just don't know," Sharapova said when asked if she might consider dropping down to play WTA 125K or ITF events. "I haven't thought of my schedule moving forward from here yet."
"I don't have a crystal ball to tell you if I can or if I will [play the number of tournaments I would like], but I would love to, yeah."
Sharapova has endured a tough 12 months since the 2019 Australian Open, as she has had to limit her playing schedule due to injury. Her long-running struggle with her right shoulder forced her out of Roland Garros last fall, then came a forearm injury that forced her to retire in the first round Wimbledon.
After a solid pre-season in Italy with Riccardo Piatti, Sharapova played her first match since the US Open at the Brisbane International two weeks ago. She lost out narrowly in a third-set tiebreak to a surging Jennifer Brady, revealing afterwards that a virus landed her in the hospital just a few days earlier.
"It's tough to say I'm on the right track right now 45 minutes after the match. But there is no way to get out of it except to keep believing in yourself, because if you do do all the right things and you don't believe in yourself, then that's probably a bad formula."
"I think I'm not the only one [going through struggles]," Sharapova said. "I can speak about my struggles and the things that I've gone through with my shoulder, but it's not really in my character to.
"I was there. I put myself out there. As tough as it was, I finished the match and, yeah, it wasn't the way that I wanted."
"As far as the work that I did, yeah, I did all the right things. I put in all the right work. There is no guarantee that even when you do all of those things that you're guaranteed victory in a first round or in the third round or in the final. That's the name of this game.
"That's why it's so special to be a champion, even for one time."