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Sharapova, Venus Williams start Aussie Open with wins

The Sports Network

1/14/2013 9:13:59 AM

Melbourne, Australia (Sports Network) - Former champion Maria Sharapova and seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams both cruised in their first-round matches as play commenced at the Australian Open on Monday.

The second-seeded French Open champion Sharapova, who captured this Aussie event back in 2008 and lost to Victoria Azarenka in last year's final, didn't drop a game in dismantling fellow Russian Olga Puchkova 6-0, 6-0 at Rod Laver Arena in a match that took a mere 55 minutes to complete. Sharapova was also a Melbourne runner-up in 2007.

"After a couple of close games and a few break points, I certainly started to concentrate a bit better," Sharapova said. "I didn't want to concentrate on the fact I hadn't played a lot of matches. I just wanted to focus on what was ahead of me and really be aggressive. It was one of those matches where I didn't try to worry about her too much."

Sharapova will face Japan's Misaki Doi on Wednesday.

The 25th-seeded former world No. 1 Williams, still seeking her first-ever Aussie Open title, had an easy time as well in dispatching Kazakhstan's Galina Voskoboeva 6-1, 6-0 in exactly one hour. Williams lost to her younger sister Serena in the 2003 Aussie finale.

Venus' second-round opponent will be France's Alize Cornet.

Fourth-seeded Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska, fresh off back- to-back season-opening titles in Auckland and Sydney, overcame some early struggles to post a 7-5, 6-0 triumph over Aussie Bojana Bobusic.

The red-hot Radwanska will face Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu in round two.

Long-time crowd favorite and ninth seed Samantha Stosur was also a straight- set winner in her opening match, with the Aussie veteran taking care of Chinese Taipei's Kai-Chen Chang by a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 score. Stosur, a former U.S. Open champ who has never reached the quarters at her home Slam, will meet Chinese Zheng Jie in the round of 64.

No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber cruised past Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-4, while sixth-seeded Li Na, the 2011 French Open champ and Aussie Open runner-up, downed Kazakhstan's Sesil Karatantcheva 6-1, 6-3. Kerber will meet Czech Lucie Hradecka, while Li's next opponent will be Belarusian Olga Govortsova on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, 11th-seeded French slugger Marion Bartoli handled Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-2, 6-4, 13th-seeded former world No. 1 and 2008 Aussie runner-up Ana Ivanovic whipped Hungarian Melinda Czink 6-2, 6-1 and 15th- seeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova came back to beat Aussie Ashleigh Barty 3-6, 6-0, 6-1. Cibulkova was last week's Sydney runner-up to Radwanska. Up next for Ivanovic will be Taiwan's Yung-Jan Chan.

Other seeds winners were No. 18 Julia Goerges, No. 19 Ekaterina Makarova, No. 22 Jelena Jankovic, No. 23 Klara Zakopalova, No. 27 Sorana Cirstea, and No. 30 Tamira Paszek. The former No. 1 Jankovic handled Swede Johanna Larsson 6-2, 6-2 on Day 1.

A mild upset came when Russian Ksenia Pervak knocked out 32nd-seeded German Mona Barthel 7-5, 2-6, 6-4. Barthel was a finalist in Hobart last week.

Several other women reached the second round, including American Madison Keys and Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.

The first round will conclude on Tuesday with 32 more matches, including ones for the reigning world No. 1 and reigning Aussie Open champ Azarenka and the five-time Aussie winner Serena Williams. Azarenka will take on Romanian Monica Niculescu, while the third-seeded 15-time Grand Slam winner Serena, the reigning Wimbledon and U.S. Open titlist, will face Romanian Edina Gallovits- Hall.

Also seeing action on Day 2 will be seventh-seeded French Open runner-up Sara Errani, eighth-seeded former Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, 10th-seeded former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, and 29th-seeded rising American Sloane Stephens, who will be opposed by Romanian Simona Halep on Tuesday. Kvitova will open up against former French Open champion and former Roland Garros runner-up Francesca Schiavone.