Published January 08, 2015
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Former champion Maria Sharapova's return to Melbourne Park ended in a shock 7-6 3-6 6-4 defeat by fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday.
"I certainly had my chances, I just didn't execute," the 14th-seeded Sharapova told reporters after being dumped out of the year's first grand slam in three hours and 22 minutes.
"She was up and then I'd get back there and back in the game," added the former world number one, who contributed to her downfall with 11 double-faults.
After losing the first set in a tie-break, Sharapova rallied in the second to level the match but surrendered a break with her eighth double-fault of the match to trail 2-0 in the decider.
Kirilenko wobbled when serving for the match at 5-3 to allow Sharapova to break back, but coolly sealed the win after bringing up two match points.
"I start to feel much better in the second set actually. I start to feel that I can be aggressive, as well.
"I did more winners than in first set. From that point, I started to feel that, yeah, I'm playing good from the baseline and I can beat her."
Both players struggled with their serves throughout the contest and Sharapova gifted Kirilenko two set points in the first set before netting a backhand to go a set down.
Sharapova hit back in the second, breaking Kirilenko after a marathon game of nine deuces to lead 2-0 and then bringing up set point with a forehand winner down the line.
Kirilenko, unintimidated by her more highly-fancied countrywoman, held her nerve in the third set to post the tournament's first major upset.
She faces Yvonne Meusburger in the second round after the Austrian beat Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 6-4 4-6 6-2.
(Editing by Alastair Himmer)