Indian Wells: Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova has decided to split with her tennis coach Sven Groeneveld following her shock first round exit from the WTA Indian Wells tournament. After four years of working together, the decision to go their separate ways was a mutual one, Sharapova said on Friday.
"After four successful and challenging years of collaboration together, I would like to thank Sven for his incredible loyalty, work ethic and most importantly the friendship that we have formed that will go beyond this working partnership," Sharapova said in a news release. "Although we have mutually agreed to part ways during this time, I have been incredibly fortunate to have a team leader like him in my corner." The former world number one, and twice a winner in the California desert, suffered a stunning defeat on Wednesday to Japanese No. 1 Naomi Osaka, losing in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. Sharapova was one of the tournament's major attractions after missing the last two.
"Maria has been one of the most hardworking and professional players I have ever worked with. Her strength and fighting spirit will continue to be a force to reckon with and I have the deepest respect for her as a player and person," said Groeneveld of the Netherlands. For Sharapova the loss to the 20-year-old Osaka was another painful reminder that it's back to the drawing board for the Russian as she makes her way back from a 15-month drugs ban. It was her second first round loss in a row after she withdrew from the Dubai tournament with a forearm injury. In her only Grand Slam appearance this year, Sharapova reached the third round of the Australian Open before losing to Angelique Kerber.