Maria Sharapova knocked out of Qatar Open in opening round
"Physically I felt good, but I got pretty passive in the end and started to make too many errors"
By Sky Sports Tennis
Last Updated: 14/02/18 11:03am
Former world No 1 Maria Sharapova was sent packing in the first round of the Qatar Open with a shock 4-6 6-4 6-3 defeat to Monica Niculescu.
Niculescu had never previously faced Sharapova, who was playing in Doha for the first time since 2013 on a wildcard.
The 30-year-old Romanian qualifier twice trailed by a set and a break before winning 12 of the final 13 points to secure victory after two hours and 38 minutes.
Niculescu has been ranked as high as 28th in the world but nearly fell out of the top 100 for the first time in eight years at the start of the season.
"I did a good job of winning the longer rallies, even though that's not really what I wanted to get myself into," said Sharapova at her post-match press conference.
"So, physically I felt good. I just got pretty passive in the end and starting making too many errors."
It was Sharapova's first match since losing to Angelique Kerber in the third round of the Australian Open last month.
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Agnieszka Radwanska held her nerve to overcome Mona Barthel 3-6 6-3 7-5 in another marathon match lasting two hours and 24 minutes.
Radwanska needed 10 match points to make it three three-set victories in a row over Barthel and record her 17th win in Qatar - the most in the tournament's 15-year history.
Dominika Cibulkova took nearly two hours to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 and there were also wins for Russian pair Anna Blinkova and Ekaterina Makarova.
Mihaela Buzarnescu and Ying-Ying Duan had straight-sets victories, while Catherine Bellis - 7-5 and 4-1 ahead in the second set - progressed when her Russian opponent Daria Kasatkina retired injured.
Japan's Naomi Osaka won the final match of the evening with a comprehensive 6-4 6-0 victory over Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.
We will be covering the ATP ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, Rio Open, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and ATP 500 Acapulco in February on www.skysports.com/tennis with news, previews, live blogs, reports and expert analysis.
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