Sharapova marches on in Melbourne

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal pose for photos after Australian Open final

Fifth seed Maria Sharapova was too good for Japan’s Nao Hibino on Monday, winning her first round match at the Australian Open in straight sets.

The Russian was in fine form in a 6-1, 6-3 victory in 73 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.

After pulling out of the Brisbane International with an arm injury, there were concerns over Sharapova’s match fitness but she looked solid in a ruthless display.

The 28-year-old started off on fire breaking her opponent’s serve in the second and sixth games to win the opening set 6-1.

In the second set, Sharapova was just as convincing breaking Hibino’s serve in the first and third games before dropping her own serve in the eighth. She would break back though to win the set 6-3 and with it the matxh.

In an interview afterwards, Sharapova said that she was pleased with the way she had played.

“I haven’t played many matches in many weeks so it’s great to come out here and start my season at the Australian Open,” she said.

“I was quite pleased in the way I was able to play in my opening match.

“I’m feeling really good, which is a positive. I’m just happy to finish off today and be able to get ready for the next one.”

The fifth seed next plays Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, who earlier beat Evgeniya Rodina of Russia 6-3, 7-6(2).

In other women’s first round matches, Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic caused an upset by beating Australian 25th seed Samantha Stosur (Australia) 6-4, 7-6(6) while Hungarian Timea Babos took two hours and 49 minutes to get past Heather Watson of Britain 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-5.

In another upset, Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia beat German 22nd seed Andrea Petkovic 7-5, 6-4 while Croatia’s Ana Konjuh got past Urszula Radwanska of Poland 0-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Unseeded Canadian Eugenie Bouchard won in straight sets against Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia, going through 6-3, 6-4.

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