Australian Open 2019: Maria Sharapova breezes through opening round in Melbourne

Former world number one Maria Sharapova has made a commanding start to her 2019 Australian Open campaign with a double-bagel triumph against British qualifier Harriet Dart.

Chasing her first Grand Slam title since serving a 15-month doping ban, the 30th seed needed just 63 minutes to trounce Dart 6-0 6-0 on Monday.

Sharapova’s second-round opponent will be Swede Rebecca Peterson, who thumped Romanian Sorana Cristea 6-4 6-1.

The Russian’s haul of five major titles includes the 2008 Australian Open crown.

Sharapova’s most recent Grand Slam crown came at the 2014 French Open.

Less than two years later she was hit with a two-year doping ban – later reduced to 15 months – for testing positive to the banned substance meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

“It’s been many years since I lifted the trophy here,” Sharapova said on Monday.

“I love competing but I also love challenging myself because the younger players are always getting better.”

After winning three matches in qualifying last week to earn a spot in the main draw at Melbourne Park, the 22-year-old Dart was thoroughly outclassed by Sharapova, winning only 29 points across two one-sided sets.

Angelique Kerber  wasted little time in the blazing sun in storming into thesecond round.

The world number two  and reigning Wimbledon champion needed just 72 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to dispose of Slovenian Polona Hercog 6-2 6-2 on Monday.

Champion in 2016 and a semi-finalist last year, Kerber will play Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia on Wednesday for a place in the last 32.

“I have to say it’s a really special court, a really special place for me. Every time I walk onto this court I have great memories,” the German said.

“Especially after 2017, coming back and winning my third major at Wimbledon, it was one of the best feelings. We now have 2019 and I want to continue playing how I played last year.”

Fifth seed Sloane Stephens was also untroubled, the 2017 US Open champion seeing off fellow American Taylor Townsend 6-4 6-2.

Rising Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka lived up to her pre-tournament billing with an emphatic 6-1 6-4 win over Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya.

Considered by many as a title dark horse, Sabalenka has soared from outside the top 70 to world number 11 since losing to Ashleigh Barty in the opening round last year, collecting her first two career titles in a breakout 2018 season.

Meanwhile ASB Classic winner Julia Goerges suffered a shock loss to world number 35 Danielle Collins from America.

The two-time Auckland tournament winner won the opening set comfortably 6-2 before Collins came firing back to win the final two sets 7-6 6-4.

Western Australian Astra Sharma is the first local through to the second round beating fellow Aussie Priscilla Hon in a dramatic encounter.

The 23-year-old Grand Slam debutante won 7-5 4-6 6-1 on Monday before Hon required medical assistance after the pair battled it out for more than two hours in searing heat.

Other opening round women’s draw matchups:

Timea Babos (HUN) bt Ons Jabeur (TUN) 7-6(5) 7-6(3)

Wang Yafan (CHN) bt WC-Ellen Perez (AUS) 6-4 6-0

9-Kiki Bertens (NED) bt Alison Riske (USA) 6-3 6-3

Maria Sakkari (GRE) bt 22-Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-1 3-6 6-2

Q-Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) bt Bernarda Pera (USA) 6-3 5-7 6-4

20-Anett Kontaveit (EST) bt Sara Sorribes (ESP) 6-3 6-2

Amanda Anisimova (USA) bt Monica Niculescu (ROU) 7-6(3) 6-4

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) bt Monica Puig (PUR) 6-4 6-3

WC-Kimberly Birrell (AUS) bt Q-Paula Badosa (ESP) 6-4 6-2

24-Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) bt Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-4 7-6

WC-Zoe Hives (AUS) bt Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 6-1 6-2

Katie Boulter (GBR) bt Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 6-0 4-6 7-6 10-6

Sachia Vickery (USA) bt Q-Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) 2-6 6-4 6-4

29-Donna Vekic (CRO) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-2 6-4

 31-Petra Martic (CRO) bt Heather Watson (GBR) 6-1 6-2

19-Caroline Garcia (FRA) bt Q-Jessika Ponchet (FRA) 6-2 6-3

Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) bt Evgeniya Rodina (RUS) 6-3 6-2

More to follow

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