MELBOURNE, Australia – Maria Sharapova won for the first time at Melbourne Park since taking the 2008 Australian Open title, beating Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-1, 6-3 on Monday in Australia in the opening match on center court.
Sharapova, the former top-ranked player who missed the 2009 tournament because of a shoulder injury and was ousted in the first round last year by fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko, struggled with her serve and was inconsistent in the second set. After losing the opening service game at love, Sharapova won seven straight games to take a 6-1, 1-0 lead.
The 33-year-old Tamarine, clearly not in peak physical condition, rallied and had a game point on serve for a 4-1 lead, but 14th-seeded Sharapova broke back and regained momentum, winning the last five games.
Even when she was winning, Sharapova had trouble finding range with her serve. She had 10 double-faults and five aces.
“I definitely felt that in the beginning. I knew I had an early exit last year and didn’t want that to happen this year,” said Sharapova, who has the goal in Australia of “staying aggressive and little by little trying to get my game better.”
French Open champion Francesca Schiavone had a couple of stutters before advancing with a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Arantxa Parra Santonja of Spain
Also, No. 20 Kaia Kanepi of Estona beat Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 and No. 29 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia advanced 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4 over Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
Roger Federer opened his Australian Open title defense with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Lukas Lacko.