Sharapova’s Opener a Light Workout
Switzerland's Roger Federer throws the ball along the court as he acts as a ball boy during an exhibition match during the Kids Tennis Day at Melbourne Park ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Russia's Maria Sharapova blows a kiss to the crowd following her win over compatriot Olga Puchkova in their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)
Venus Williams of the US makes a backhand return to Kazakstan's Galina Voskoboeva during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Serena Williams, right, of the US watches her sister Venus during her first round match against Kazakstan's Galina Voskoboeva at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Russia's Maria Sharapova waves to the crowd following her win over compatriot Olga Puchkova in their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams of the US perform the gangnam style dance during the Kids Tennis Day at Melbourne Park ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Russia's Maria Sharapova hits a forehand return to compatriot Olga Puchkova during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)
Melbourne, Australia — Maria Sharapova finished her first match of the year in 55 minutes today, cruising to a 6-0, 6-0 win over Olga Puchkova to start proceedings on center court at the Australian Open without showing any signs of trouble with her sore right shoulder.
The No. 2-ranked Sharapova, who lost the final to Victoria Azarenka here last year before going on to win the French Open, faced only two break points in the match and she saved both of those in the first game.
Then she went on a 12-game roll that earned her a second “double bagel” inside a year.
Sharapova started her run to the French Open title with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Alexandra Caduntu at Roland Garros last year. But she said the score line wasn’t really relevant.
“If you win 7-6 in the third, you’ve still won the match,” she said.
Sharapova withdrew from the Brisbane International earlier this month with an injured right collarbone, saying she wanted to concentrate on being fit for the season’s first major. She skipped the tournament last year, as well, before going on to reach the Australian Open final.
Against Puchkova, she said, “I didn’t want to focus on the fact I hadn’t played a lot of matches.”
Sharapova has a potential third-round match against Venus Williams, who needed just an hour for her opening 6-1, 6-0 win over Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan.
Williams played with power and determination and took command of the match early with a steady stream of winners and powerful serves.
She skipped last year’s Australian Open due to illness and was warmly welcomed with applause as she entered the court. Venus Williams had the biggest jump of any of the top players in 2012, moving from outside the top 100 to finish the year at No. 24.
Her younger sister, Serena, was sitting in the crowd with coach Patrick Mouratoglou. Serena is the strong favorite to win the Australian Open, heading into the tournament with 35 wins in her past 36 matches including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open.
No. 3-ranked Serena Williams is in the top half of the draw with defending champion Victoria Azarenka, and the pair won’t start until tomorrow.
Novak Djokovic was scheduled to start his bid to be the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles today with a first-round match against Paul-Henri Mathieu of France.
The top-ranked Djokovic shelved the conventional preparations for a while on the weekend, warming up for a shot at a third consecutive Australian title with a bit of weekend hit-and-giggle and a Gangnam Style dance with Serena Williams.
That was for kids’ day, when thousands of people flocked to Rod Laver Arena to see 2012 Australian champions Djokovic and Azarenka hitting in a just-for-fun match with players including past champions Roger Federer and Williams and a cast of human-sized cartoon characters.
Rookie Wins First
Honolulu — Russell Henley became the first PGA Tour rookie to win his debut in 10 years with a record-setting performance yesterday in the Sony Open.
Tied for the lead with fellow rookie Scott Langley to start the final round, Henley seized control from the start with a birdie on the first hole. And then he really poured it on at the end of the round. Henley birdied his last five holes to close with a 7-under 63 for a three-shot win over Tim Clark.
Henley finished at 24-under 256, breaking by four shots the Sony Open scoring record. It was the second-lowest score for a 72-hole tournament in PGA Tour history, two shots behind Tommy Armour III at the Texas Open in 2003.
The win gives Henley an invitation to the Masters.
Hirscher Sizzles in Slalom
Adelboden, Switzerland — Marcel Hirscher turned in a scintillating second run to win a World Cup slalom yesterday, after being eighth in the opening leg.
Hirscher, the overall World Cup leader, was at least 0.83 seconds faster than any rival in the afternoon to best Austrian teammate Mario Matt by 0.30.
Ted Ligety of the United States remained third overall after finishing 11th, 2.44 behind Hirscher. The American, who won Saturday’s giant slalom, has 179 points to make up on the defending champion midway through the season.
American teammate David Chodounsky made an impact of his own by placing 10th for his best World Cup result in an injury-hit career at age 28.
Maze Amazes Again
St. Anton, Austria — Tina Maze of Slovenia reached another milestone in her stellar season yesterday by winning her first super-G and becoming the sixth female skier to win a World Cup race in all five Alpine disciplines.
In perfect, sunny conditions, Maze attacked the Karl Schranz course in impressive style to time 1 minute, 16.55 seconds and edge Anna Fenninger of Austria by 0.04.
It was the sixth victory of the season and 17th overall for Maze, who was on a super-G podium eighth times before without winning one.
Fabienne Suter of Switzerland trailed Maze by 0.99 and beat defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn by 0.01 for third place.