Aussie Open: Sharapova is gone while Federer rolls

Maria Sharapova is out of the 2014 Australian Open
Maria Sharapova is out of the 2014 Australian Open

Maria Sharapova followed top seed Serena Williams out of the Australian Open with a shock defeat by Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round.

The Russian, who won the title in 2008, lost 3-6 6-4 6-1 in an erratic display on Rod Laver Arena.

Five-time champion Williams was beaten by Ana Ivanovic 24 hours earlier, leaving two-time winner Victoria Azarenka – the second seed – as the player with the most major titles in the draw.

Third seed Sharapova left the court for a medical timeout before the final set, and finished with a total of 45 unforced errors as Cibulkova closed it out in two hours and 12 minutes.

Sharapova had played an epic second-round match on Thursday against Karin Knapp that lasted three-and-a-half hours in temperatures of over 100 degrees

The 26-year-old’s serve had been wildly unreliable in that match but was functioning well enough in the early stages against Cibulkova as she edged the first set.

It did not last, however, as the first-serve percentage dipped in the second and the 5ft 3in Cibulkova leapt gleefully on every opportunity.

The Slovakian’s nerve faltered from 5-0 up but she served it out at the third attempt and, after Sharapova returned from getting treatment off-court, dominated the final set.

Seven Sharapova double faults contributed to her demise in the decider and Cibulkova showed no nerves as she matched her French Open victory over the Russian of five years ago.

On the Men’s side a majestic Roger Federer emphatically announced his return as a grand slam contender by trouncing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 to charge into the Australian Open quarter-finals.

The former world No1, coming off a wretched 2013, channelled the halcyon days of his new coach, Stefan Edberg, dominating at the net to humble the Frenchman in 112 electrifying minutes under the lights of Rod Laver Arena.

Having suffered early exits at Wimbledon and the US Open, Federer muscled into his 41st grand slam quarter-final, equalling the record of the American Jimmy Connors in the professional era.

The 17-times grand slam winner sealed the match with a cross-court volley to book a clash with the Wimbledon champion, Andy Murray, for a place in the semi-finals.