Sharapova cruises as big names exit

By on July 23, 2016

UPDATE: Maria Sharapova has waltzed into the second round of the Australian Open, testing out her injured forearm in a 6-1 6-3 dismissal of Nao Hibino.

Sharapova pulled out of her Brisbane International title defence earlier this month after hurting her left arm in a practice session.

The Russian veteran, who won the Open in 2008 and finished runner-up in 2015, next faces world No.105 Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus.

EARLIER, women’s seeds tumbled at the Australian Open on Monday, with former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and American Sloane Stephens the biggest casualties of the women’s draw on the first day of the tournament.

Wozniacki claimed the first set 6-1 but Kazakh opponent Yulia Putintseva rallied in a marathon second set to win it in a tiebreak after 88 minutes before claiming the third set 6-4.

The 3hr 13min match played out in gruelling heat, with both players also needing medical attention – Wozniacki with an ankle injury that required a lengthy medical time-out at the beginning of the third set and Putintseva’s hand issue addressed in the first set.

Having closed out the match 1-6 7-6(3) 6-4, the world No.76 was the first to admit that she couldn’t believe her luck, revealing that she had suffered from extreme nerves in the first set and cramping throughout the third.

But when it came to serving out the match, she tried to forget all about what was unfolding.

“I tried to keep my emotions inside and imagined like I was losing, actually, so I could come back,” Putintseva said.

Caroline Wozniacki was a first-round casualty.Caroline Wozniacki was a first-round casualty.Source: Getty Images

“I think I was pretty nervous in the first set, because I’m not used to playing in front of this many people. Afterwards, I got a little bit used to it and tried to keep it inside.

“I cannot believe it that I have won.”

The Dane’s attempts to approach the net proved futile, winning 21 of 42 net approaches.

Stephens’ 36 unforced errors proved costly on her way to a 3-6 3-6 loss to Chinese qualifier Qiang Wang, who was playing in just her second grand slam.

The American had led the first set 3-1, but admitted it was “just one of those days” where nothing went right.

“Nothing was going my way,” she said.

“There wasn’t really a lot of shots that I liked and that I normally make weren’t going in. A lot of opportunities slipped away and in a tennis match it’s really important to capitalise on opportunities and make a lot of shots.”

Despite the surprise loss, Stephens remained in good spirits and said she had no excuses for the loss.

Monday’s match aside, she is confident that she has many years of success ahead.

“I felt fine … it just kind of got away from me,” she said.

“I’m disappointed that I lost here but if I play until I’m 35, I have plenty more Grand Slams to go. So I just have to look past it.”

Italian Errani, the tournament’s 17th seed, was another casualty, falling in three sets to Russian Margarita Gasparyan, 6-1 5-7 1-6.

LISTEN BELOW AS LEO SCHLINK AND LAUREN WOOD DISCUSS THE MATCH FIXING SCANDAL, RECAP DAY 1 AND LOOK AHEAD TO A MASSIVE DAY 2

Earlier, double Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova showed little sign of the illness that has been plaguing her to overcome Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum in straight sets at the Australian Open on the opening day.

The Czech sixth seed has had the worst possible lead-up to the year’s opening Grand Slam, with a gastro illness forcing her out of the Shenzhen Open and Sydney International, where she was defending champion.

But the aggressive baseliner put the ordeal behind her in the first round match, sweeping past Kumkhum 6-3, 6-1 in 70 minutes in blazing heat on Rod Laver Arena.

Petra Kvitova waves to the crowd after her win over Luksika Kumkhum on Monday.Petra Kvitova waves to the crowd after her win over Luksika Kumkhum on Monday.Source: AP

Kvitova, who is playing in her eighth Australian Open, with a semi-final appearance in 2012 her best showing so far, broke the Thai star to go 5-3 clear in the opening set then served out in 36 minutes.

She maintained the momentum in the second set, racing 3-0 clear before her opponent pulled a break back. But it was too little too late with the world number six clinching the match on a Kumkhum double fault.

Kvitova is coming off a solid 2015 where she won titles in Sydney, Madrid and New Haven, while making the decider of the season finale WTA Finals which Pole Agnieszka Radwanska won.

She next faces either fellow Czech Lucie Hradecka or local hope Daria Gavrilova.


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