MELBOURNE (AFP) – Maria Sharapova denied revenge was a motivating factor behind her shock win over defending Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki yesterday.
The five-time Grand Slam winner dumped the Dane from the tournament in a three-set thriller 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to claim her biggest scalp since completing a drugs ban in 2017.
At the time, world number three Wozniacki was an outspoken critic of the way the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) eased Sharapova’s return from the positive test by handing the Russian wildcards to top tournaments.
But Sharapova, who is seeded 30 at Melbourne Park this year as she tries to rejoin the game’s elite, insisted the spat was not on her mind as she bundled out the Dane on Rod Laver Area.
“I just really like winning,” the 31-year-old said. “I’m really happy and proud of the way I competed in the match and I’m into the fourth round. That’s all that matters.”
The win sets up a last 16 clash with in-form Australian hope Ash Barty for the Russian, who won the title at Melbourne Park in 2008 and has reached the final a further three times.
Sharapova said she was thrilled to overcome a player of Wozniacki’s stature.
“I knew I was going to get a really tough match as she’s the defending champion of this event and it’s no secret she loves this arena,” she said.
“I haven’t played many matches in the last year, especially against top players and these are the ones I train for, so it’s really rewarding to win.”
She has defeated Barty in both their previous meetings but believed the Australian would be a challenge in front of her fanatical home support.
But Sharapova, who once famously summed up her attitude as “I’m not here to make friends”, said she would not let the crowd affect her.
“I know it’s going to be a tough crowd, but I go out here to perform and play tennis,” she said.
There were dramatic momentum shifts in the battle between the two former world number ones, but the decisive period came when Sharapova stormed back from 4-1 down to go on a five-game winning streak and take the first set.