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Maria Sharapova falls to qualifier Camila Giorgi in error-strewn Indian Wells third round

Hannah Wilks in News 11 Mar 2014
Camila Giorgi (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Defending champion Maria Sharapova became the second-highest seed behind Victoria Azarenka to depart the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Monday when she faltered against talented qualifier Camila Giorgi, who won 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.

‘It was a really good match - it wasn't too consistent, but it was great anyway,’ Giorgi said. ‘I just tried to play my game and keep going, and even if I missed, I still played my game. I didn't change.

‘I think I was just playing more aggressive than her at the end and that was really important.’

In a match littered with unforced errors and double faults, it was the world no. 79 Giorgi who ultimately held her nerve and serve when it mattered most, serving the match out at the second time of asking as Sharapova, despite all her competitive toughness, could not deliver her best in the crucial closing games. There were 15 breaks of serve in 30 games, including Sharapova twice breaking back in the third set – the second time when Giorgi was serving for the match – but against Giorgi’s flat aggressive groundstrokes and returns, Sharapova couldn’t hold and, as Giorgi’s father visibly shook and was barely able to watch in the stands, the slight Italian served the match out at the second time of asking. 

‘I didn’t play a good match at all,’ Sharapova said, ‘and I started very poorly. Never played against her, but she’s someone that doesn’t give you much rhythm. Some shots she hits incredible for a long period of time. Sometimes they go off a bit.’

The loss may constitute evidence of a worrying trend for Sharapova – losing to players who hit the ball hard and flat as she does, but who are considerably shorter, as demonstrated when she was defeated by Michelle Larcher de Brito at Wimbledon last year and eventual finalist Dominika Cibulkova at this year’s Australian Open. Coach Sven Groeneveld, whom Sharapova hired in November, repeatedly advised her during coaching timeouts to ‘lower her centre of gravity’ – in other words, to get low to the ball – but the Russian was unable to do so consistently and is projected to drop to no. 7 in the rankings, a worrying dip ahead of a stretch of the season in which Sharapova, in addition to her Indian Wells title, must also defend a trophy in Stuttgart and final appearances in Miami and Madrid.

Sharapova, after missing the latter part of the 2013 season due to an injury to her right shoulder, is insistent that she needs more matches to get back to her best. 

‘I think the physical part of it is something that is hurting me a little bit when we’re going into these three-set matches,’ she said. 

‘That’s not a secret for anyone. And when you skip those months, there’s nothing that gets back that match play than just going out and doing it.  You can train for so many hours on end, and it just doesn’t replicate what you’re doing out there in the tournament. Of course, this doesn’t help when you only play a couple of matches at a tournament.’

Giorgi, meanwhile, is developing a pattern of eye-catching runs as a qualifier. She reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2012 and the US Open in 2013 after coming through qualifying, defeating Caroline Wozniacki at the latter. 

‘I think if she played at this level for a consistent period of time, I don't think she'd be a qualifier here,’ Sharapova said of Giorgi. ‘I think that's pretty obvious to everyone. But that's the thing with tennis - and I've said it so many times - you've got to bring this type of tennis when you're playing on centre court or when you're playing on Court 18. And especially when you're just moving up and when you're just getting that confidence and you're playing well in Grand Slams, you've got to back it up.

‘It's a big challenge. It really is. But if she keeps it up, she will be a good player.’

Giorgi will play compatriot Flavia Pennetta in the round of 16 after Pennetta continued her good season by beating Samantha Stosur 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Top seed Li Na faces Aleksandra Wozniak after the resurgent Canadian upset Paris champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova beat Ekaterina Makarova to set an enticing encounter with eighth seed Petra Kvitova. Sloane Stephens beat Ana Ivanovic 7-6(3), 6-4 and will play Alisa Kleybanova in the round of 16. 

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Maria Sharapova falls to qualifier Camila Giorgi in error-strewn Indian Wells third round

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