Now it counts: Sharapova, Venus into 3rd round
By JOHN PYE
The Associated Press | January 17,2013
Venus Williams serves to Alize Cornet of France in their second round match at the Australian Open in Melbourne Wednesday.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova was careful not to show any disrespect to the two women she beat 6-0, 6-0 along the way to a third-round match against Venus Williams at the Australian Open.
As rare as it was, she said, an almost flawless start wasn’t entirely what she’d come to Melbourne to achieve.
The No. 2-ranked Sharapova overwhelmed Japan’s Misaki Doi in 47 minutes Wednesday, even less time than she’d needed to beat fellow Russian Olga Puchkova two days earlier in her first competitive match of 2013.
No woman had posted back-to-back 6-0, 6-0 wins at a Grand Slam since 1985.
Yet it didn’t excite the 25-year-old Sharapova, who wasn’t even alive when Wendy Turnbull did it at the Australian Open.
“It’s not really the statistic I want to be known for,” Sharapova said in her most matter-of-fact way. “I want to be known for winning Grand Slam titles, not that I won two matches 6-0, 6-0.”
Tennis is all about Grand Slam titles for Sharapova who, with her drought-breaking victory at the French Open last year, now has a complete set of four major championships. And she knows it won’t be easy against the 32-year-old Williams, who has won seven.
“Well, you certainly know what she’s capable of,” Sharapova said. “But when you’re out on the court, you’re not thinking how many titles she’s won or how experienced she is.”
To Sharapova, her first two wins have been a matter of “getting the job done.” She was recovering from a sore right collarbone that ruled her out of a tuneup event in Brisbane earlier this month. She skipped the Brisbane tournament last year, also due to injury, and went on to reach the Australian Open final.
“Knowing what’s ahead of me ... there are certainly no secrets coming into that matchup,” she said. “You know, despite the fact that she might not be seeded high or didn’t play for a little bit, she’s still a very experienced player and a tremendous athlete.”
Sharapova leads the head-to-head series 4-3, but Williams has won both of their Grand Slam meetings.
Numbers don’t mean much either to Williams, who is making trip No. “Lucky 13” to Melbourne Park.
She’s still on the comeback trail from missing seven months after the 2011 U.S. Open to deal with Sjogren’s Syndrome. Now seeded 25th, she dropped only one game in her first-round win and then went down a break early to Alize Cornet of France before winning 6-3, 6-3.
Williams hasn’t been in a Grand Slam final since 2009 and often jokes about her age, laughing as she told the crowd: “I’m fighting the wrinkles. I’m fighting the battle of the bulge!”
One thing 17 years in Grand Slam tournaments have taught her is the value of knowing who stands in your way.
“Yeah, I look at the draw. I’m not superstitious,” she said. “I’m playing against Maria, I know. I’m going to have to be at my best against her.
“I know I’m not the highest seed, so I realize I’m probably going to have to play someone (highly ranked) and someone is going to have to play me — that’s pretty much what it is.”
Somebody who won’t be getting in her way is No. 9 Samantha Stosur, the big upset Wednesday. The 2011 U.S. Open champion led 5-2 in the third set and twice served for the match, before losing 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 to China’s Zheng Jie.
The kicker was a double-fault on match point by the Australian playing in front of the home fans.
“It was a bit of a choke,” Stosur conceded. “Obviously it’s a hard one to take when you get yourself into a winning position and you lose five games straight.”
No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanksa had no such trouble, extending the year’s best winning streak to 11 matches with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu. Nor did 2011 French Open champion Li Na, No. 5 Angelique Kerber or 17-year-old American wild card Madison Keys, who all advanced in straight sets.
Serena Williams is due to play her second-round match against Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the second match at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday. She twisted her right ankle in her opening 6-0, 6-0 win over Edina Gallotis-Hall, an injury that seems the biggest issue likely to hinder her bid for a third consecutive major title.
She cancelled an outdoor practice session Wednesday, switching to the secluded indoor courts.
“She’s obviously a fighter and she doesn’t complain,” older sister Venus said. “She’s not looking for any sympathy. She just wants to hopefully play ... and that’s it.”
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka has the first match on the center court, against Eleni Daniilidou of Greece, and Roger Federer has a night match against Russian veteran Nikolay Davydenko.
No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic is already into the third round, extending his winning streak at Melbourne Park to 16 with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win over 20-year-old American Ryan Harrison.
He’s on track for a record third consecutive Australian Open title and doesn’t have any other major winners on his half of the draw after Rafael Nadal withdrew and Federer, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro landed on the opposite side.
Djokovic will next play No. 31 Radek Stepanek, who beat Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
Fourth-ranked David Ferrer beat American Tim Smyczek 6-0, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. No. 5 Tomas Berdych defeated Guillaume Rufin of France 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, and No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic took almost four hours to oust Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 7-5.
Among the other men advancing were No. 10 Nicolas Almagro, No. 16-ranked Kei Nishikori, No. 22 Fernando Verdasco and No. 20 Sam Querrey, who moved on when fellow American Brian Baker retired in the second set.
Baker, who returned to the tour last year after missing almost six seasons with various injuries, was pushed from Court 6 in a wheelchair with torn ligaments in his right knee.
“He’s the last person that deserves anything like that with his five or six surgeries already,” Querrey said.