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Maria Sharapova Crashes Out Of Australian Open In First Round

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Former champion Maria Sharapova crashed out of Australian Open losing 6-3 6-4 to Croatian 19th seed Donna Vekic.

The defeat meant Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, would fall outside the world's top 350 in the rankings. The 32-year-old Russian player is currently ranked No.145.

Sharapova, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2008, required a wildcard to make the main draw this year.

Following a tough season, Sharapova's lack of matchplay showed early on Tuesday as she was repeatedly caught on the back foot, spraying balls wide. But after the match, Vekic said she didn't feel like playing a wildcard. "Maria is a great player, a champion."

The 23-year-old Croatian returned to Rod Laver Arena three years after she was beaten by Caroline Wozniacki.

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep had to save three set points in the first set and fight for more than an hour before defeating American Jennifer Brady 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 in the first round.

Czech Republic's world number two Karolina Pliskova was forced to work hard in the second set to beat Kristina Mladenovic in another first round match.

In the men's section, World No.1 Rafael Nadal overcame the brave challenge of Bolivia's Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-3 6-0 in the opening round.

Australia's Nick Kyrgios, seeded 23rd, powered into the second round with a straight-sets win over Italy's Lorenzo Sonego. Score: 6-2 7-6(3) 7-6.

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