Romania's Monica Niculescu defeats Maria Sharapova in Qatar Open's first round

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Former world No 1 Maria Sharapova was sent packing in the first round of the Qatar Open with a shock 4-6 6-4 6-3 defeat to Monica Niculescu. "So everything was really good for me".

A jubilant Niculescu described the match as a very good win as well as tough. Physically I felt good.

A decisive break at 4-5 then handed the Romanian the second set, before the underdog again fought back from a break down to take the third and final set and seal victory. "I loved the way I played and I like to be unique and I think my slice forehand is my weapon", Niculescu said after the match. The key was when I could understand her game and what she's doing a little bit because I had no rhythm and I'm guessing she also didn't have rhythm because I'm playing odd.

The former World No.1 Sharapova, and one of the tournament's major attractions who had been given a wildcard into the draw hit 52 unforced errors as opposed to just 17 from Niculescu. I'm happy that I could get through.

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It's hard to pinpoint what exactly has been missing in Sharapova's game since her return last April. Caroline Wozniacki celebrates her 69th week as world No. 1, she has 349 points more than Simona Halep.

The courts are expected to play much faster than last year's rain-affected tournament where the weather was so bad, organisers were just one day away from cancelling the desert event without reaching the final because it was so wet.

For both Sharapova and Serena Williams, it seems the first six months of 2018 will see if they can still contend for Slams at the French and Wimbledon, or if the skills sets have peaked for the 30-somethings.

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