Nadal, Shara­pova make fast work of op­po­nents in open­ing round

San Antonio Express-News - - WEATHER - By John Pye

MEL­BOURNE, Aus­tralia — Rafael Nadal wasn’t about to let an­other Aus­tralian wild-card en­try beat him at a Grand Slam tour­na­ment.

The Span­ish left­hander de­feated No. 238th-ranked James Duck­worth 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 at the Aus­tralian Open on Mon­day, his 15th win in 17 matches against wild cards at Grand Slam tour­na­ments.

Nadal’s only pre­vi­ous de­feats to wild-card en­trants at ma­jors were against Amer­i­can James Blake in the third round of the 2005 U.S. Open and Aus­tralian Nick Kyr­gios in the round of 16 at Wim­ble­don in 2014.

Nadal, wear­ing a sleeve­less top, did an ex­tended left-arm cel­e­bra­tory pump af­ter break­ing Duck­worth’s serve af­ter two cross-court stun­ners to lead 4-2 in the third set.

His only stum­ble came as he served for the match and was bro­ken by Duck­worth, who got back to 5-4. But Nadal re­turned the fa­vor, break­ing the Aus­tralian in the fi­nal game of the match.

“Not easy to come back af­ter a lot of months of com­pe­ti­tion, es­pe­cially against a player play­ing su­per ag­gres­sive ev­ery shot,” Nadal said. “It’s very dif­fi­cult to start af­ter an in­jury — I know it very well.

“It’s very spe­cial to be back.” Ear­lier, Maria Shara­pova posted a 6-0, 6-0 win over Har­riet Dart. The 2008 Aus­tralian Open cham­pion got play started on Rod Laver Arena on Mon­day and needed 63 min­utes to ad­vance.

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

Dart, 22, play­ing in the main draw of a ma­jor for only the sec­ond time af­ter get­ting a wild card 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, 31, said she was 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. “I think I was just fo­cused on not hav­ing a let­down.”

For­mer French Open cham­pion Je­lena Ostapenko fell 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 to Maria Sakkari

And fifth-seeded Sloane Stephens ended a three-match los­ing streak in first-round matches at Mel­bourne Park with a 6-4, 6-2 win over fel­low Amer­i­can Tay­lor Townsend.

Aaron Fav­ila / As­so­ci­ated Press

Rus­sia’s Maria Shara­pova cel­e­brates af­ter de­feat­ing Bri­tain’s Har­riet Dart in 63 min­utes in the open­ing round Mon­day.

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