Aus­tralian Open starts

No. 30 seed coasts into sec­ond round after rout­ing Brit

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Sports -

Maria Shara­pova sharp, among the win­ners on first day of play.

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.

Shara­pova, the 2008 Aus­tralian Open cham­pion, got play started on Rod Laver Arena 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.

Dart, 22, of Lon­don, play­ing in the main draw of a ma­jor for only the sec­ond time after get­ting a wild card to play a year ago 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 the 2018 sea­son after the U.S. Open.

Asked if she felt sorry for her young, beaten ri­val, Shara­pova, who lost in the first round at Wim­ble­don last year, said: “I mean, there is no time for that, I’m sorry to say ... when you’re play­ing the first round of a Grand Slam. I think I was just fo­cused on not hav­ing a let­down.

“I think it’s very easy to be in a po­si­tion where things are flow­ing, you know, you’re do­ing all the right things, she’s mak­ing a few er­rors, you’re com­fort­able, easy to get com­pla­cent, and, you know, com­pla­cency is not great. I was glad that I did the right things from the be­gin­ning till the end.”

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.

Shara­pova was one of five Aus­tralian Open ti­tlists to play on Rod Laver Arena on Day 1. No 2 Rafael Nadal, who won his only Aus­tralian ti­tle in 2009, de­feated Aussie James Duck­worth, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

Nadal was on serve up, 5-2, in the third be­fore clos­ing out pesky Duck­worth.

Fifth-seeded Kevin An­der­son fi­nally over­come tra­di­tional poor first-round per­for­mances at Mel­bourne Park with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 win over Adrian Man­nar­ino.

An­der­son had lost in the first round here six times, in­clud­ing to Kyle Ed­mund a year ago. It was the South African’s first win in Mel­bourne since 2015.

He warmed up for the Aus­tralian Open by win­ning his sixth ATP tour ti­tle at Pune, In­dia.

Man­nar­ino recorded his best per­for­mance at Mel­bourne Park by ad­vanc­ing to the third round in 2018. He went into the first slam of this sea­son hav­ing lost in the first round at Doha and last week at the Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional.

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

Boul­ter beat Eka­te­rina Makarova, 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (6), in­clud­ing 10-6 in the tiebreaker in which the first player to reach 10 with an ad­van­tage of two points clinches the match.

The night ses­sion on cen­ter court be­gan with a cer­e­mony hon­or­ing the man him­self, Rod Laver, on the an­niver­sary of his sec­ond Grand Slam of sin­gles ma­jors in 1969.

Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Maria Shara­pova plays a back­hand in her first-round 6-0, 6-0 win against British qual­i­fier Har­riet Dart Sun­day at Mel­bourne Park.

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