Dulko claims Sharapova scalp
Originally published on: 26/02/10 12:36
The 22-year-old Russian, who slipped down the rankings after spending 10 months out of the game with a shoulder injury, lost 6-2 3-6 6-4 to Argentina’s Gisela Dulko, the world number 45.
A subdued Sharapova endured a shaky start but looked to have got her game going when she strung together a sequence of seven consecutive games. But Dulko finished the stronger despite missing four match points as she booked her place in the last 32.
The Argentinian won just three games in her two previous meetings with the 2002 champion but matched that tally inside the first 12 minutes on Centre Court.
Dulko followed up a comfortable opening service game with a crashing forehand pass that gave her three break points. Sharapova saved two but put a forehand wide to fall 2-0 behind.
Dulko, who quickly found a rhythm with her dangerous forehand, was rarely troubled on her own serve and broke the mis-firing Russian for a second time in the eighth game. Oozing confidence, Dulko broke her opponent again early in the second set to lead 6-2 and 3-0.
But Sharapova battled back to win sixth consecutive games and take the second set 6-3 to force a decider.
Sharapova extended her winning sequence at the start of the third set but Dulko stopped the rot by holding serve in the second game.
There were signs of a return of the swinging forehand as Dulko broke her opponent to edge in front but just as quickly dropped her serve.
As the tension grew, Sharapova received a time violation in her third service game of the deciding set and the match took another turn when the Russian was broken to love in the seventh game. Dulko then served out for a memorable win she dubbed the best of her career.