Sharapova dumps Connors after one match

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

Maria Sharapova and Jimmy Connors may have just completed one of the shortest player-coach relationships in tennis history after parting ways following just one competitive match.

Sharapova was dumped out of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati on Tuesday, losing to American Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-7, 3-6, in what was her first outing on tour since pairing up with Connors after Wimbledon.

Sharapova confirmed the split on Friday. Connors, an eight-time Grand Slam singles champion and one of the legends of the game, tweeted out a rueful message that indicated he was happy to be back home in Santa Barbara and made what may be a pointed reference to his former employer.

"Back home in SB – family, pups and home cooking. Oh – I forgot, and a vodka on the rocks," Connors wrote.

It was not so much the result in Cincinnati that stunned observers, as Stephens is a fine emerging talent headed surely towards the top 10 in the rankings. Instead, it was the error-riddled nature of the performance, with Sharapova collapsing completely after winning the first set and racking up an extraordinary 62 unforced errors against only 16 winners. At times she looked scarcely able to keep the ball in play as Stephens took full advantage.

"Obviously, I haven't played in a long time," Sharapova said in her post-match press conference. "But I can't make that excuse for myself because I have got to be ready from the first match."

Sharapova hired Connors, 60, in the immediate aftermath of her disappointing Wimbledon defeat to Michelle Larcher de Brito and they had worked together for around a month.

Yet within hours of Sharapova leaving the court, the London Times was reporting that the duo had already decided to call time on their partnership and would no longer be working together.

Heading into the new season, Sharapova had high hopes and specifically targeted adding to her collection of four Grand Slam titles (one from each of the four tournaments), but came unstuck in the Australian Open semifinals and French Open final before her Wimbledon disaster.

With injuries also starting to pile up and potential uncertainty following her split from Connors, it seems that the campaign might go down as one of unfulfilled promise.

From the start the Connors-Sharapova match-up was one that widely divided opinion. Both are explosive characters and Connors' only previous coaching experience was a stint in charge of Andy Roddick that did nothing to elevate Roddick's game to a new level.

However, Connors and Sharapova seemed to be combining well in training, according to interviews Sharapova had given. In the end though, this was clearly a tennis marriage doomed to end, and end quickly.

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