Sharapova back in the swing of things


Tennis: Maria Sharapova was delighted to get her US Open campaign under way with a comfortable first-round victory after being laid low by illness since the Olympics.

The Russian had already begun to feel the effects of a stomach bug when she was trounced by Serena Williams in the gold medal match at Wimbledon and missed the tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati.

She revealed she even had tests to make sure she was not pregnant but has now recovered and was untroubled in a 6-2 6-2 victory over Hungary’s Melinda Czink on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Sharapova said: “I was just happy to be back playing a competitive match. It’s been a few weeks. It was a nice break in a way but, after so many weeks of practising, you’re just eager to get back on the court.

“The tournament almost seems a little bit easier because the practice is a little bit shorter getting ready to play matches. It’s so much better than having practice weeks. But I was happy with the way I came out. I’d never played my opponent before. Conditions weren’t exactly perfect. Overall I played steady, but there’s room for improvement, that’s for sure.”

Sharapova won the US Open in 2006 but since then has never made it past the third round, something she is dearly hoping to change this year. The third seed said: “I haven’t been past the first week in a long time. I would love to get that back. I haven’t played at a level that I wanted to play here.

“There shouldn’t be any reason why I can’t, have the success that I had for a few years, winning it in 2006. That’s certainly something that I’m looking to get back.” In the first match of the day, defending champion Sam Stosur began her campaign in style, winning the first 19 points in a 6-1 6-1 victory over Croatia’s Petra Martic.

The Australian, a brilliant winner over Serena Williams 12 months ago, admitted the prospect of a rare golden set — winning every point — had briefly crossed her mind.

She said: “I knew at 4-0, 40-0 that I hadn’t missed a point and the match had been going pretty quick and obviously in my favour. It did pop into my head for a split second. Then I hit the double fault and it was erased and I was quickly on with the next point.”

She added: “It was great to get out there again. I felt like I was ready to go. First match up, first day, was a good start. I probably carried on from exactly how I was feeling last year. Hopefully that’s a good omen.”

The two form players of the north American hard-court swing, fifth seed Petra Kvitova and ninth seed Li Na, both won their opening matches.

Kvitova has won titles in Montreal and New Haven in the past month, the latter on Saturday, so it was perhaps not surprising she found the hot and humid conditions heavy going in a 7-6 (8/6) 6-1 victory over Polona Hercog.

China’s Li, the finalist in Montreal and winner in Cincinnati last weekend, continued her fine form in a 6-2 6-3 victory over British number one Heather Watson. The 30-year-old has recently started working with Justine Henin’s former coach Carlos Rodriguez instead of husband Jiang Shan.

She said: “After I got a new coach I think for both me and my husband it was much, much easier. Love is love, coach is coach. You have to separate.”

Wimbledon quarter-finalist Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges both crashed out with 16th seed Lisicki losing 4-6 6-2 6-2 to Romania’s Sorana Cirstea and 18th seed Goerges going down 7-6 (7/4) 6-1 to Czech Kristyna Pliskova.

To complete a bad day for Germany, Andrea Petkovic, playing her first grand slam of the year after knee and ankle injuries, lost 6-2 7-5 to Swiss Romina Oprandi. There were wins for seeds Marion Bartoli, Lucie Safarova, Varvara Lepchenko and Nadia Petrova, but Anabel Medina Garrigues lost to Lucie Hradecka.

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