Maria Sharapova has offered no guarantees that she will be back at the Australian Open after suffering a 6-3 6-4 loss to Donna Vekic in Melbourne.
Sharapova has played a limited schedule because of ongoing shoulder problems and has won only three matches since reaching the fourth round in Melbourne last year. Her ranking is projected to drop to world No 366 as a result of her latest defeat.
Vekic proved a formidable opponent on the court where Sharapova won the title in 2008 and the 19th seed raced to a 5-1 lead in the opening set before the former world No 1 found a way to get back into the contest.
Sharapova made Vekic work hard to close out the set and took a 4-1 lead in the second but was unable to maintain her momentum, losing the last five games to make her earliest exit from Melbourne Park since 2010.
The Russian cut a disconsolate figure in her post-match press conference and, asked whether she will be here next year, she replied: “I don’t know.
“I was fortunate to get myself to be here and thankful to (tournament director) 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.”