On Tuesday, the world number four gave back to her 26-year-old opponent exactly what she had received in London and produced a ruthless 6-0 6-1 victory to set up an Australian Open second round encounter against American qualifer Jamie Hampton.
“(She is) someone that’s beaten me the last time we played at a major… (and) she can definitely play some really good tennis. I think I was just mentally prepared for that,” Sharapova said of a victory that took just 58 minutes.
“Overall, I think I played pretty good and aggressive.”
There had been a feeling of deja vu prior to the match. The last time the pair had met, the tall Russian was lacking in preparation as she continued her comeback from shoulder surgery.
As a consequence, the Argentine forced the rusty Sharapova into a string of errors and ran out a 6-2 3-6 6-4 winner.
Sharapova entered Hisense Arena on Tuesday without playing a competitive match this year after an ankle injury flared up but this time, she blasted Dulko off the court.
“She’s someone that likes to have time to create her shots,” Sharapova said of forcing the Argentine into 22 errors while Dulko committed another 18 that were unforced.
“She likes to get you off the court. She has many weapons when you give her that time. I think it was just important not to give her that, what she likes.”
The 24-year-old Russian had been heading for a ‘double bagel’ 6-0 6-0 victory until she temporarily lost control of her serve in the third game of the second set and was broken.
Dulko punched the air in delight after winning the game while the crowd on Melbourne Park’s second show court gave her a massive cheer and sustained applause.
Sharapova, however, was not prepared to stay on court any longer than necessary in the intense heat, breaking Dulko’s next two service games and surviving a trio of break points when serving for the match to complete the win.
After the comprehensive display, the three-times grand slam winner said she felt well prepared for the tournament despite being restricted to hitting practice.
“Of course I would have preferred to have played a few matches, there’s no doubt. But I have experience in how to handle going into a grand slam maybe with not as many matches,” she added.
“I feel like if you can put in the time on the practice court and if you’re healthy enough, you have that energy,…(and) if you can have that intensity pretty high… then sometimes it’s even better to have that practice week.”
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