Sharapova splits with Dutch coach

Former world No. 1 makes decision after first-round exit at 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 No. 1, and twice a winner in the California desert, suffered a stunning loss 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 Holland.

For Sharapova, the loss to the 20-year-old Osaka was another painful reminder that it’s back to the drawing board as the 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. – AFP

Maria Sharapova