Maria Sharapova sets up champions clash at the Australian Open
- Author: Regina Holmes Jan 18, 2018,
Jan 18, 2018, 13:56
Sharapova, back in the top 50 after a 15-month ban for taking the performance-enhancing substance meldonium in Australia in 2016, demonstrated all the shot-making that made her a 5-time major victor.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal made memorable returns to action in Melbourne a year ago after injury ended their previous season early and Djokovic in particular served up an ominous warning that he may follow his rivals' lead with something similar over the next fortnight.
She celebrated by twirling, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd.
"It's been a couple of years since I've been back here - obviously I wanted to enjoy the moment", the 2008 Australian Open champion and three-time runner-up said in an on-court TV interview. "I'm just really happy to be back here".
Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champion, continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 win over fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam.
Maria Sharapova said she is "not overly confident" in her pursuit of a sixth grand slam title after making a winning start at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Her ranking slid into the 20s in 2017, but she's coming back into the kind of form which makes her a title contender. "I want to see where I am on that level". "Something is going on with Australia and me". "I played flawless tennis, like I never stopped". After not having hit a ball on the pro tour since mid-July due to a right elbow, the Serb didn't disappoint by hammering American Donald Young 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
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Djokovic, who holds a professional era record six titles at Melbourne Park, was wearing a compression sleeve on his elbow and his newly modified serve remains a work in progress.
Kerber had a standout 2016 when she won in Australia, beating Serena Williams in the final, to become the first German since Steffi Graf in 1999 to claim a Grand Slam.
No. 4 Alexander Zverev, No. 5 Dominic Thiem, No. 7 David Goffin, No. 19 Tomas Berdych advanced, but No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut lost to Fernando Verdasco and former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic lost to Lukas Lacko.
No 13 Sam Querrey restored some order for the U.S. men with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Feliciano Lopez. Two other USA contenders, No. 8 Jack Sock and No. 16 John Isner, were among the first-round casualties on Monday.
Madison Brengle of the United States lost to Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-1. This is one of the places where we get together.
Zverev, victor of five titles previous year, held his nerve on the bigger points, particularly in the second set tie-break which could have gone either way before the German clinched it and eventually closed out a 6-1 7-6 7-5 victory.