Big upset in Qatar Total Open as Niculescu sends Russian star Sharapova packing
Russian Maria Sharapova, who won the Qatar Total Open twice before in her career, was handed a shock first-round defeat by Romanian Monica Niculescu at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex yesterday.
The tall Russian player was ambushed by a series of incredible topspin forehand shots by Niculescu and she went down 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, according to Gulf Times.
Sharapova had defied Niculescu’s unique style of play by winning the first set, but she was unable to escape the web of sliced shots from the Romanian and crashed out.
Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner, was not helped by 11 double faults and 52 unforced errors while her opponent, who fired 12 winners, grew in confidence as the contest went on. The Romanian finally did the unthinkable in two hours and 38 minutes, reported The Peninsula.
Niculescu and Sharapova treated the Doha crowd to some thrilling games and rallies, but it was the 2012 Qatar Total Open quarterfinalist’s consistency that won the day, hitting 12 winners to just 17 unforced errors and converting six of seven break point opportunities.
Visibly frustrated by Niculescu’s spins and slices, the 2008 champion was ultimately undone by the 52 unforced errors that canceled out her 31 winners.
“I did a good job of winning the longer rallies, even though that’s not really what I wanted to get myself into. Physically I felt good. I just got pretty passive in the end and starting making too many errors,” Sharapova was quoted as saying by Qatar Tribune.
Meanwhile, other qualifiers too had a good day, with Anna Blinkova, Catherine Bellis and Ying-Ying Duan also booking their spots in the second round.