Sharapova bounced early Down Under
By JOHN PYE
MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova tumbled out of the Australian Open today in her worst performance at a Grand Slam event since 2003, falling, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4, to Maria Kirilenko in the first round.
The 14th-seeded Sharapova was unable to defend her 2008 Australian Open championship while sidelined 10 months because of right shoulder surgery. She then failed to advance beyond the quarterfinals in the other three majors last year.
The loss to Kirilenko was her earliest exit at a major since her first-round loss at the 2003 French Open.
"Just didn't win the match ... bottom line," said Sharapova, summing up the match in a matter-of-fact manner. "Certainly had my chances and just didn't execute.
"I felt like I was — when she was up and then I'd get back there, back in the game — I just didn't take advantage of that and let her ... control the situation again."
Kirilenko, whose best run at a major was to the fourth round in Melbourne two years ago, put her fingers to her lips late in the match to remind herself to remain calm, not to silence a crowd that sensed an upset.
"Normally, it was for me actually, that everything is calm," she said of the gesture. "Because of course it's a great win, but it's only the first round I pass. It's nothing big actually."
Russia's two highest-ranked women advanced in straight sets, with second-seeded Dinara Safina beating Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-4, 6-4, in the first match completed on a rainy day at Melbourne Park, and No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova beating Anastasia Rodionova of Australia, 6-1, 6-2.
Safina lost the final to Serena Williams last year.
Kim Clijsters played on Rod Laver Arena immediately after Sharapova's loss and needed less than an hour to beat Valerie Tetreault of Canada, 6-0, 6-4.
Clijsters won the U.S. Open in September in her third tournament back from time off after getting married and having a baby.
Yanina Wickmayer, another Belgian making a comeback of sorts, has had an almost agonizing route to the second round. Wickmayer held off Alexandra Dulgheru, 1-6, 7-5, 10-8.
Despite her No. 16 ranking, Wickmayer had to qualify for the event because she was subject to a suspension — later overturned — for violating the World Anti-Doping Agency's "whereabouts rule" when confirmations for the season's first major closed.
Andy Roddick sat through a needless rain suspension before beating Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
The match at Hisense Arena, the tournament's second covered court, was suspended at 2-2 in second set so that organizers could close the roof, which had been opened despite rain in the area.
No. 5 Andy Murray had no such trouble on the main court later today, with the British player beating South Africa's Kevin Anderson, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.
In between rain delays on outside courts, Croatia's Ivo Karlovic ousted No. 13 Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, in a first-round match that finished more than seven hours after it had been due to start.
Also, No. 11 seed Fernando Gonzalez of Chile beat Olivier Rochus of Belgium, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, and Florian Mayer had an impressive comeback to beat Philipp Petzschner, 0-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, and American Wayne Odesnik ousted Slovenian qualifier Blaz Kavcic, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
On the women's side, No. 12 Flavia Pennetta of Italy beat Russian Anna Chakvetadze, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, while No. 24 Maria Jose Martinez of Spain, No. 30 Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia all advanced.
Sharapova kept going for winners despite twice being only two points away from losing the match. She ended up with 72 unforced errors and 11 double-faults.
The Marias, both Russian and both 22, clubbed 71 winners and made 110 unforced errors between them in a match that lasted 3 hours, 22 minutes and allowed the No. 58-ranked Kirilenko to even their four career head-to-head matches.
Ivan Ljubicic (24), Croatia, def. Jason Kubler, Australia, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Fernando Gonzalez (11), Chile, def. Olivier Rochus, Belgium, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Florian Mayer, Germany, def. Philipp Petzschner, Germany, 0-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Andy Roddick (7), United States, def. Thiemo de Bakker, Netherlands, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Andy Murray (5), Britain, def. Kevin Anderson, South Africa, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Wayne Odesnik, United States, def. Blaz Kavcic, Slovenia, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
Dinara Safina (2), Russia, def. Magdalena Rybarikova, Slovakia, 6-4, 6-4. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia, def. Anastasija Sevastova, Latvia, 6-2, 6-4. Zheng Jie, China, def. Peng Shuai, China, 0-6, 6-1, 6-2. Kateryna Bondarenko (30), Ukraine, def. Ioana Raluca Olaru, Romania, 6-2, 7-6 (6). Yvonne Meusburger, Austria, def. Timea Bacsinszky, Switzerland, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Maria Kirilenko, Russia, def. Maria Sharapova (14), Russia, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4. Elena Baltacha, Britain, def. Pauline Parmentier, France, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Kim Clijsters (15), Belgium, def. Valerie Tetreault, Canada, 6-0, 6-4. Yanina Wickmayer, Belgium, def. Alexandra Dulgheru, Romania, 1-6, 7-5, 10-8. Svetlana Kuznetsova (3), Russia, def. Anastasia Rodionova, Australia, 6-1, 6-2. Flavia Pennetta (12), Italy, def. Anna Chakvetadze, Russia, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (24), Spain, def. Evgeniya Rodina, Russia, 6-0, 6-0.