Maria Sharapova shines, Venus Williams crashes out at Australian Open
World No. 5 Maria Sharapova dazzled in her first round match at the Australian Open tennis tournament, serving up a straight set singles victory over Japanese Nao Hibino in Melbourne on Monday.
There were question marks surrounding Sharapova's health after she withdrew from her only lead-up event in Brisbane due to a left forearm injury suffered in practice, but there were no ill effects as the No.5-seeded Russian powered past Hibino in an hour and 13 minutes, 6-1, 6-3 at the Margaret Court Arena.
"It was just nice to get on court and face the opportunity of playing a first match," Sharapova said afterwards.
"No matter how much you train, it's always different when you walk out onto the court. It's definitely a relief to get that first one out of the way," she said after the win.
Sharapova was also told she's Hibino's idol and that the Japanese has posters of her on her wall.
"She's got to take those off! It's time to put her posters up there," Sharapova said.
"I actually hadn't heard much about her, and I hadn't seen too much of her game before I went on the court today. She actually likes the pace and takes the pace quite well. For a first Grand Slam performance, I thought she was there till the end. That's impressive. She never let in, never gave up."
"I mean, experience is priceless for anyone, but especially for someone that's just starting out in their Grand Slam experience," she added.
"I'm sure she'll have a great future ahead of her."
Sharapova has now won 46 of her last 47 Grand Slam first round matches - her only loss in the first round of a Grand Slam since 2003 came at the hands of Maria Kirilenko at the 2010 Australian Open.
Venus is unlucky
8th seed Venus Williams, who only recently returned to the top 10 rankings, was up against British No.1 Johanna Konta, who is unseeded at the Open. Williams, who has managed a strong comeback last year despite struggling with an autoimmune disorder.
Unfortunately for the older Williams sister, she crashed out of the Open – ignominously so, suffering a straight sets loss to Konta.
The Briton beat Williams 6-4, 6-2 in a quick 79 minute match that saw the former World No. 1 completely outclassed.
Top seeded at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai last year, Williams ended the year having won that title and ranked 7th.
She has not been lucky in 2016, however, beginning the year with losses to Italy’s Sara Errani and German ace Angelique Kerber at an exhibition tournament in Thailand, following which she was ousted from this year’s ASB Classic by 18-year-old challenger Daria Kasatkina despite being the top seed at the tournament.