Melbourne: Maria Sharapova admitted she’d been blown away by Li Na’s bristling aggression on Thursday after her record-breaking run at the Australian Open was brought to a screeching halt by the Chinese star.
Sharapova, who hogged the limelight with her new line of sweets and debut on Twitter, had starred on the court too as she rampaged to the semi-finals for the loss of only nine games, a new tournament record.
But the Russian world number two was unable to respond to a barrage of probing groundstrokes from Li as China’s world number six dominated play and the scoreline, 6-2, 6-2.
“I think she played a really great match,” said Sharapova, who fell short of her eighth Grand Slam final. “She was certainly much more aggressive than I was, dictating the play. I was always on the defence.
“When I had my opportunities and break points in games that went to deuce, I don’t think any of them really went my way today.”
Sharapova had been in destructive mood as she reached the third round without dropping a game, and then swept aside multiple major-winner Venus Williams, Kirsten Flipkens and Ekaterina Makarova.
But in sweltering conditions, the intense Russian was immediately on the backfoot against Li as she double-faulted twice in the first game to give up an immediate break.
And Li, the 2011 French Open champion and former Melbourne finalist, did not let up as she ran through Sharapova in 1 hour 33 minutes.
Afterwards, Sharapova conceded she’d been found lacking in her first real test of the tournament.
“When I go into any match, I’m trying to win with the best scoreline I can. That’s my goal,” she said.
“Like I mentioned before, if I’m tested, I have to pull through it. Then, yes, that’s great if I win with a good scoreline, move on to the next one, try to do the same thing. Today I felt like I had my fair share of opportunities. It’s not like they weren’t there. I just couldn’t take them today.”