STUTTGART, Germany - Maria Sharapova took her fourth consecutive loss on Tuesday, losing 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 to World No.7 Caroline Garcia in the first round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. This is just the second time in the Russian's career she has taken four straight losses, with the last dry spell coming in 2003.
Despite the loss, there were many positives to take out of Sharapova's performance in Stuttgart. She fired 17 aces and hit 39 winners to 25 unforced errors over the course of her 2 hour and 44 minute duel with Garcia. Stuttgart was Sharapova's first tournament since opting to split with coach Sven Groeneveld after Indian Wells. Since the split, the five-time major champion has reunited with Thomas Hogstedt, the Swedish coach who served as the primary architect behind her transformation into one of the best clay court players in the game.
"We haven't really made a formal agreement," Sharapova told reporters after the match. "We're taking it one week at a time. But I'm loving the work I'm putting in and as far as I'm concerned, that's always the important step in the process. I know over there [points to center court] is also extremely important, but so long as I'm putting myself out there and he's bringing that work ethic every day as well, then I'm looking forward to good things with him."
On her decision to part ways with Groeneveld, Sharapova said the split may have been accelerated by her first-round loss at Indian Wells to Naomi Osaka. The Russian has been battling injury since January and felt she was physically unprepared to play in the California desert.
"I felt like my previous match at Indian Wells wasn't a match that I needed to go and play because I wasn't physically ready to pay that match," Sharapova said. "But maybe that match helped me make some tough decisions that I ended up having to make. It's always a tricky time for them, especially with a person that's been by your side, that you've had such great success with, an incredible coach that has been a mentor to you, that you have a lot of respect for. It's never easy. There's no real way to go about it. But I think we both felt it was the right time for it.
"With Thomas, obviously having the experience of having him by my side, being part of a winning team, and also being on the losing end of matches -- he's coached a lot against me since and I appreciate that feedback coming back into the team. I've had a great few weeks of training. That motivation when you get when you're training, if someone can come into your team and bring that, I mean, respect.
"That's what I really appreciate about his work. He has a great work ethic. And I'm all for that. I'm not shy of putting in the work. I expect that from myself because as the competition gets tougher, as the years go by, everyone's putting in the work. It takes a lot more than that.
"From a health point of view, that's improved a lot. So even though there are changes I believe they're good changes even though they're tough times to make changes."
Sharapova's next scheduled event is the Mutua Madrid Open, which begins on May 4th.