Sharapova enjoys winning return to Melbourne
Former champion Maria Sharapova enjoyed a winning return to the Australian Open as she wore down Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-1 6-4 on Tuesday to take her place in the second round.
The 30-year-old Russian, who served a 15-month doping ban last year after testing positive for banned substance meldonium after her Melbourne defeat by Serena Williams in 2016, met some rugged resistance but had too much power for Maria.
There was plenty of support for 47th ranked five-times grand slam champion Sharapova with regular shouts of “C’mon Masha, we’ve missed you” around the Margaret Court Arena.
Her opponent was actually one place higher on the WTA rankings and the same age as Sharapova, but there was a vast difference in pedigree with the German never having gone beyond the third round in 22 previous grand slams.
Sharapova, who won the title 10 years ago, dropped serve to lose her only game in the opening set, although the rallies were often drawn out with Maria showing tenacious scrambling skills.
Djokovic delighted after elbowing out Young
Novak Djokovic was delighted with his return to the grand slam arena after a long injury layoff, the Serb having dealt American Donald Young a 6-1 6-2 6-4 thrashing to reach the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Wearing a compression sleeve on his serving arm, Djokovic showed no signs of the elbow trouble that curtailed his 2017 campaign as he swung freely to amass 33 winners during the one hour and 51 minute romp at a sunbathed Margaret Court Arena.
The six-times Melbourne Park champion, seeded 14th, dropped to his knees and patted the blue court affectionately after completing his first match since retiring hurt from a Wimbledon quarter-final last July.
“It felt great to be back on the court and compete again. It’s been a while,” the former world number one told reporters.“I did have various emotions, mostly good ones.
Excitement, joy, gratitude for being able to have an opportunity to compete. Not a while ago, about three weeks ago, I didn’t know whether I’m going to play Australia or not.
Sublime Federer breezes through Melbourne opener
Defending champion Roger Federer was quickly into his majestic stride with a straight-sets victory over Slovenian Aljaz Bedene in his opening match at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old Swiss turned the evening clash on packed Rod Laver Arena into an exhibition as he struck 41 winners to breeze past a willing but outclassed Bedene 6-3 6-4 6-3.
The only time Federer looked remotely stumped came during a post-match interview conducted by American comedian Will Ferrell who told him he had played like a “silky gazelle”.
“Don’t they get eaten in the end?,” Federer ventured before being asked whether he was a witch or a vampire and whether his age-defying performances were down to a diet of wombat meat.
Petkovic dumps Kvitova
Twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova’s return to the Australian Open a year after being attacked by an intruder at her home ended in disappointment with a marathon 6-3 4-6 10-8 first-round loss to German Andrea Petkovic on Tuesday.
A former quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park, Kvitova missed last year’s event as she recovered from surgery to her left hand which was injured by a knife-wielding assailant weeks before the tournament.
Kvitova showed she was back to a level approaching her dominant best with a last-eight appearance at the US Open, but her clash with former top-10 player Petkovic ended in heartbreak after she double-faulted on match point when serving at 5-4 in the third set on Show Court Two.