FLY­ING START

Shara­pova dumps Dart in first round of Aussie Open

Toronto Sun - - SPORTS -

MEL­BOURNE, Aus­tralia — Maria Shara­pova has the sec­ond-best record among ac­tive play­ers in first-round matches at the ma­jors, and she gave an il­lus­tra­tion of why that’s the case with a ruth­less 6-0, 6-0 win over Har­riet Dart at the Aus­tralian Open.

The 2008 Aus­tralian Open cham­pion got play started on Rod Laver Arena on Mon­day and needed only 63 min­utes to ad­vance.

In her 15th trip to Mel­bourne Park and her 55th Grand Slam tour­na­ment, she’s acutely aware of the toll that the sun and long early matches can have on a player’s ti­tle am­bi­tions, so she gets straight to busi­ness.

The 22-year-old Dart, play­ing in the main draw of a ma­jor for only the sec­ond time after get­ting a wild­card to play last year at Wim­ble­don, only got a look at one break point in the match — when Shara­pova served a dou­ble-fault in the sec­ond set. She got seven of her 29 points from Shara­pova’s dou­ble-faults.

That was the only real blem­ish in Shara­pova’s stats: She hit 20 win­ners and won five of her five points at the net.

Shara­pova said she was still feel­ing pain in her right shoul­der de­spite sit­ting out the end of last sea­son after the U.S. Open.

Stung by a first-round loss at Wim­ble­don last year, Shara­pova said she couldn’t af­ford to feel any em­pa­thy for Dart.

“I mean, there is no time for that, I’m sorry to say ... when you’re play­ing the first round of a Grand Slam,” she said.

Among play­ers who’ve played at least 10 ma­jors, only 23-time ma­jor win­ner Ser­ena Wil­liams (.986) started the tour­na­ment with a bet­ter ra­tio.

Up next for Shara­pova is Re­becca Peter­son, who beat So­rana Cirstea, 6-4, 6-1.

Among the other seeded play­ers ad­vanc­ing were No. 11 Aryna Sa­balenka, who beat Anna Kalin­skaya 6-1, 6-4, No. 19 Caro­line Gar­cia, No. 29 Donna Ve­kic and No. 31 Pe­tra Mar­tic.

Danielle Collins ad­vanced to the sec­ond round of a ma­jor for the first time fol­low­ing a 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 win over No. 14-seeded Ju­lia Go­erges, who won the ti­tle in Auck­land to start the sea­son.

Katie Boul­ter earned the dis­tinc­tion of win­ning the first 10-point tiebreaker un­der the Aus­tralian Open’s new sys­tem for de­cid­ing sets.

Boul­ter beat Eka­te­rina Makarova 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (6), in­clud­ing 10-6 in the tiebreaker. The new tiebreaker rule was in­tro­duced to en­sure games don’t get too lengthy — pre­vi­ously the third set in women’s matches and the fifth set in men’s matches at the Aus­tralian Open had to be de­cided by a two-game ad­van­tage.

Fifth-seeded Kevin An­der­son won his first match at Mel­bourne Park since 2015 when he beat Adrian Man­nar­ino 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1. Also ad­vanc­ing on the men’s side were No. 19 Nikoloz Basi­lashvili and No. 26 Fer­nando Ver­dasco.

Shara­pova was one of five Aus­tralian Open ti­tlists to play on Rod Laver Arena on Day 1. Rafael Nadal, who won his only Aus­tralian ti­tle in 2009, was set to play James Duck­worth, fol­lowed by 2016 win­ner An­gelique Ker­ber against Polona Hercog.

Maria Shara­pova runs down a ball dur­ing her first-round match against Har­riet Dart at the Aus­tralian Open in Mel­bourne. GETTY IMAGES

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