Sharapova overcomes nerves in 1st-round win

AP, Monday 17 Jan 2011

Maria Sharapova had a brief case of the nerves at the Australian Open, a result of bad memories of a first-round loss last year

Maria Sharapova

The former No. 1-ranked Sharapova ended up with a relatively comfortable 6-1, 6-3 win over Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn in the first match on center court Monday, but not before losing every point in her opening service game.

The 2008 Australian Open winner blamed the shaky start on her opening match at Melbourne Park last year, when unseeded Maria Kirilenko beat her in the first round. It was Sharapova’s worst Gram Slam result since 2003.

“I was definitely a little bit nervous,” Sharapova said. “You know, last year I played first match on center and, you know, I lost.”

The nerves didn’t last long, with Sharapova winning seven consecutive games after losing the first. Still, it was not all smooth sailing. Sharapova served 10 double faults and nearly found herself down 4-1 in the second set.

“The first game definitely wasn’t great, and, um, I didn’t serve good at all during the match,” she said. “I was just not jumping up. I wasn’t moving well. I wasn’t really thinking for the first games. … I started playing better as the match went on.”

Sharapova is working her way back toward the top after a series of injuries. A shoulder injury meant she was unable to defend her 2008 Australian Open title and caused her to drop out of the top 10 in early 2009 for the first time in 4 1/2 years.

Sharapova, who won the first of her three majors at age 17 at Wimbledon in 2004, admitted to some frustration at having to rebuild her game after her injury layoff.

“Listen, I wish I could be No. 1 in the world today, last year, right when I came back,” she said. “But I think everything is a process, you know. It really is.”


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