Sharapova off to a flier

Maria Sharapova moved into the second round of the ASB Classic with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Alberta Brianti.

Maria Sharapova moved into the second round of the ASB Classic with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Alberta Brianti.  

Maria Sharapova overcame a last-minute change of opponent, beating Alberta Brianti of Italy 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the second round of the ASB Classic on Monday.

Sharapova was due to play Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in her first round match, but the late withdrawal of fifth-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia through illness led to a reshuffle of the draw.

Suarez Navarro became the tournament’s eighth-seed and Sharapova played her first match of 2011 against Brianti, who entered the main draw as a lucky loser after being beaten in the last round of qualifying.

Sharapova took 90 minutes to down Brianti and said she was unfazed by the late change to the schedule.

“When you’ve played so many years as a professional you learn to adapt to any circumstances,” Sharapova said. “It was the first match of the season for me so it didn’t matter who I played. I was just looking forward to being able to play again.”

She looked fit and sharp, playing with typical athleticism, and at her usual volume, but she lacked some of the accuracy that comes from match play. Sharapova saved a break point in her opening service game before breaking Brianti to love in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead. She broke again to lead 5-1, then dropped serve at 5-2 before breaking back to take the first set in 33 minutes.

Sharapova struggled for more than 10 minutes to hold serve in the third game of the second set, then immediately broke Brianti and went on to take the match. In a mixed display, Sharapova served seven doubles faults to Brianti’s two, three aces to none, nailed 68 per cent of first serves and won 70 per cent of first serve points. She also made a host of unforced errors and converted only five of 11 break points.

Kuznetsova advances

Third-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova also progressed to the second round, beating New Zealand wild card Sacha Jones 6-4, 6-2.

Kuznetsova took an early 2-0 lead in the first set, then gave up serve and had to battle hard against the lowly-ranked New Zealander.

“She was playing good, aggressive and she had nothing to lose,” Kuznetsova said. “There were a lot of things together and that was why I was a little tight, but in the end I loosened up a little bit and I could put more pressure on her.”

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 8:35:31 PM |

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