The Russian goes out in the second round at Wimbledon for the second year running.
Maria Sharapova became the highest profile casualty in the Wimbledon womens draw yet, losing an error-strewn second round match to Gisela Dulko 6-2 3-6 6-4.
The Russian may not be the highest seed to have gone out in the womens competition that dubious honour goes to Zheng Jie, after the No.16 seed lost to Daniela Hantuchova earlier on Wednesday.
Despite returning from shoulder surgery, the former champion, seeded 24 after the All England Club decreed that her previous record was of more relevance than her current world ranking, was expected by many to reach the latter stages of the slam.
She’s a fighter and she was there till the end” – Dulko
But Dulko, the world No.37, was in no mood to give Sharapova an easy ride. The Argentine, who is through to the third round for the fourth time in her career, got off to a flying start in each set, breaking Sharapova twice in the first set and looking set for a surprisingly easy ride when she broke again at the start of the second.
Sharapova is nothing if not a fighter, and responded with scream after fist-pump after bludgeoned flat drive to win seven games on the bounce, taking the second set and the first game of the third as Dulko simply overpowered played second fiddle.
But having recovered to parity, Sharapovas nerve failed her. Having traded breaks early, the former world No.1 faltered in game seven, double-faulting to gift Dulko three break points, the first of which she converted.
From that point on, Dulko put on a brave performance in the face of some huge hitting from the Russian, and eventually served out the match at the fifth time of asking to close out a famous victory in just over two hours.
Sharapova admitted that she still does not feel back to full fitness following her shoulder surgery, but is determined to return to the top of the game. This is not an overnight process, she told reporters. It’s gonna take time, as much time as it needs, as much time as I need on the court to get everything together.
As much time as it needs, I’m ready for it.
But Dulko, who now faces Nadia Petrova in a bid to reach the fourth round for the first time in her career, was full of praise for her illustrious opponent.
She’s a fighter and she was there till the end, the Argentine said. You know, she didn’t give any free points. She’s fighting all the time.
Playing her first match on Centre Court, Dulko admitted that she battled with her nerves when serving for the match. I was feeling that. And I knew it was a big, big game.
I had a big pressure to hold my serve. But at the end I was trying to relax and enjoy the moment.