Australian Open: Sharapova wins easy first round in shutout
Maria Sharapova put together another easy win to start the Australian Open on Monday. The former 2008 winner of the Grand Slam schooled newcomer Harriet Dart in a 6-0, 6-0 match at Rod Laver Arena on the grounds of Melbourne Park. It was the 67th match for the veteran who stayed cool despite the severe heat.
The Russian came into her 15th appearance at the Open with an advantage of being accustomed to the big stage of Rod Laver Arena. Though she had a few warmup rounds of tennis to begin the season, the 31-year-old took the last 11 days to prepare for the year’s first grand slam.
Dart would be well under pressure from the start in her debut to the tournament. The Brit dropped two sets during qualification and won the last nine of ten. With her youth being a factor on whether she can answer Sharapova and find her groove, the 22-year-old had to find a way to put nerves aside.
Sharapova didn’t have any as she dictated the serve adding power to her forehand while beating Dart with crosscourt shots. The Brit showed her nerves during the second set where she hit the ball long off the forehand giving Sharapova free points leading to her 2-0 lead. Sharapova got into cruise control with another service win that soon led to a possible shutout with Dart unable to bring the same power as the 30th seed.
Despite struggling behind, the 22-year-old made her fight arrive against Sharapova’s serve in the fifth where she forced deuce but was unable to get an AD point. They went three breaks before the Russian nailed her fifth straight win which took its toll on Dart serving to stay alive in the set.
She didn’t, as Sharapova achieved two chances on set point getting it on the second with a return landing wide from Dart. It took 31 minutes for the 30th seed to get the shutout where she had 14 winners and 27 points in total. It was a beating for Dart who served 33 percent on serve and 25 percent from the second.
After Sharapova breezed through her first service game of the second set, Dart was up to try and get better placement and response on the return. Mistakes by the Russian gave the young Brit a chance to hold serve but she had to come back from a small deficit to force deuce. She couldn’t get it done, losing on a forehand error to give Sharapova the break for her fourth of the match.
The fans in the crowd tried to get behind Dart who had one chance left to get the job done but despite having a step up on Sharapova, the Russian didn’t give in and scored the service hold for a 5-0 command. Dart was all out of ideas as she fell down 0-40 giving the 31-year-old three match points. She managed to save two of them but it was a wrap for the first timer on center stage as she went down in a full shutout that took Sharapova one hour and three minutes to complete.
“It was an amazing opportunity to play on Rod Laver Arena,” Sharapova said to Brett Phillips of ITV after the match. “It’s been many years since I raised the trophy so it’s always a privilege to get back on this court and compete. Despite my opponent not having the best day I still had to get the job done today.” She’ll move into the second round facing Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson who is ranked 62nd in the world.