Top seed Maria Sharapova sent packing in Auckland

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Maria Sharapova has been knocked out of the ASB Classic tennis tournament in Auckland by a player ranked just 88th in the world.

Sharapova, who struggled mightily with her serve and her range-finding, was dumped in straight sets by the unknown Greta Arn.

Despite being paid a substantial appearance fee, Sharapova then declined to talk to media about her performance.

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The former world number one may now play in the Sydney International next week, with the Women’s Tennis Association reserving two wildcard berths for top-20 players. Sharapova has until tonight to request a berth in the Sydney tournament.

Arn’s career-best ranking of just 81st in the world was achieved back in 2002 and she has not won a single tournament in her 15 years on the tour, and only won direct entry to the tournament after late withdrawals.

Sharapova was the biggest name she has defeated in that time and she seemed as stunned by the result as the capacity crowd, saying: “I’m just very happy: I don’t know what to say. I am like a little girl: my dream has come true.’’

Arn broke Sharapova’s serve in the very first game, and again in the fifth, causing an early conference with her coach and it took Arn just half an hour to take the set, 6-2.

Sharapova clearly struggled with the swirling winds at the Robinson Stand end, often having to check her serve, but appeared as if she was finding her range early in the second set and went 4-2 up with a shout of ‘Come on’.

But Arn broke her again and levelled at 4-4, and again at 5-5, and broke Sharapova again before holding her nerve to take the set 7-5 and the game.

Earlier, defending champion Yanina Wickmayer sent out a stark warning to the other contenders for her crown in Auckland by thrashing Romania’s Simona Halep 6-0 6-2 today.

After tough matches against Dinara Safina and Sabine Lisicki, Wickmayer took it to Halep from the outset and the Belgian laid down a marker that she’ll be the player to beat this week.

Halep had few answers and the biggest cheer of the match happened when she finally won a game in the second set to make it 1-1.

Halep was able to win more game later in the set but the result was still one of the tournament’s most one-sided matches.

Wickmayer will play the winner of the match between Heather Watson and Shuai Peng in tomorrow’s semifinal.

In Wickmayer’s other matches she has only been able to play at her peak for short periods, but today she was able to stay at her best for the entire match and when she’s in this kind of form there are few players in the world who’d be able to live with her.

As is usually the case in women’s tennis, Wickmayer didn’t talk down her opponent after the match.

“She played well today but I was just a bit more aggressive and played very well,” she said.

“I feel very happy, this is the first week of the year and I’m really happy to be playing well.

“I’m in the semis so I guess this tournament is lucky for me.”
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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.

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