Nadal, Sharapova make fast work of opponents in opening round
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.
Russia’s Maria Sharapova celebrates after defeating Britain’s Harriet Dart in 63 minutes in the opening round Monday.