It's probably not the way Maria Sharapova wanted to kick off her 2010 season. Just a guess.
The 3-time Grand Slammer was shell-shocked at the Australian Open, falling 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 to compatriot and good friend Maria Kirilenko in the tourney's first round. But if you look at the stat sheet it was littered with reasons: 45 winners against 77 errors, 11 double faults and 31% conversion on break points (5 of 16.) It was Shrieka's first opening round loss at a major since falling in the same rounds as a qualifier at Roland Garros in 2003.
Kiri will now face Austrian Yvonne Meusbuger for a spot in the third round.
The former No. 1 was questioned about her confidence at the moment in her post-match presser:
Q. In Grand Slams, you've always given the impression of knowing exactly where the ball is going. Have you lost a little bit of the belief that where you hit it is where it's going to land?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I wouldn't say it's 'belief.' I think 'belief' is either something you have or you don't have. Whether it's just a little bit of, uhm, you know, maybe confidence, uhm, obviously it's the first tournament of the year and, you know, I just came up against somebody that just played really good tennis. That's just the way it goes.
Q. How would you describe your sense of confidence right now?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, well, I'm leaving on Monday of the first week, so that explains a lot.
As for Kiri, it was probably the biggest win of her career - first round of a Grand Slam, taking down a former Oz Open champ and No.1. So why tell her box to shut their pie holes after taking the big match?
Q. You put your fingers to your lips late in the match. Was that to get the crowd to quieten down?BIG props to Kiri for not getting down when she lost the second set. She kept fighting and stuck to her game plan which was to be the steadier one on the court and move Shrieka around. As we've all seen, it's not easy playing someone so familiar and she did a great job of leaving their friendship on the sidelines - they way her more accomplished friend does so well.
MARIA KIRILENKO: It's unbelievable. I got so many questions in the locker room, in the players' lounge. What did you do? What does it mean? I don't know. Everyone can think what does that mean.
Normally, it was for me actually, that everything is calm, you know. Because, you know, of course it's a great win, but it's only the first round I pass. It's nothing big happens actually.
Q. Do you know that usually [Andrei] Arshavin does the same when he kicks the goal?
MARIA KIRILENKO: Yeah, that's true. That's what Kuznetsova just told me. Because she thinking that I was watching Arshavin before the match.
But that's not it. I said, No, I didn't watch.
Shrieka will be disappointed not just for the obvious reasons but because she was in the softest part of the draw littered with mental midgets i.e. Dinara Safina, Jelena Jankovic. She was the fave to get through this section and now it's been blown wide open. She hasn't played much since the U.S. Open (playing two tourneys and one exo, winning one title in Tokyo) so I do think she'll get better as the season progresses. But this one will definitely hurt.
[Photo(s): Lucas Dawson/Getty Images]