Shara­pova opens with straight-set win over Dart

The News Tribune - - Sports -

Maria Shara­pova has the se­cond-best record among ac­tive play­ers in firstround 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 Mel- bourne 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 dou­ble­faults.

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.

Asked if she felt sorry for her young, beaten ri­val, Shara­pova, who lost in the first round at Wim­ble­don last year, said: “There’s no time for that when you’re play­ing the first round of a Grand Slam.”

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. 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.

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