Sharapova on cruise control in Auckland Classic

AFP, Monday 3 Jan 2011

Top seed Maria Sharapova cruised through her first round match in the Auckland Classic women's tennis tournament Monday disposing of Italian qualifier Alberta Brianti in straight sets.

Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a forehand to Alberta Brianti in Auckland (Photo: AP)

Sharapova was seldom troubled as she won 6-2, 6-3 in less than 90 minutes on court with Brianti putting up her bravest showing in the second set when she saved four match points.

"This was my first match of the year and I hadn't played a tournament in a while, so it was important to get a feel for everything," the victorious Russian said.

"I thought I could have closed it out a bit sooner, but she definitely pushed me and I guess I wanted to play a few more games."

Former world number one Sharapova will now meet unseeded Czech Renata Voracova, who beat Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-0.

It was Brianti's second match of the day, after she lost to Britain's Heather Watson 6-3, 6-2 in the final round of qualifying.

However, when tournament fifth-seed Anastasija Sevastova withdrew because of illness, Brianti was called up as the "lucky loser" and a rejig of the draw put her against Sharapova.

Sharapova's original first-round opponent, Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, was elevated to eighth seed with the withdrawal of Sevastova.

Third-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova dropped her serve three times in the first set of her match against Sacha Jones but was still too strong for the New Zealander with a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

The Russian described her first match in three months as a good workout against a motivated opponent.

"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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