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Australian Open: Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal Start With Easy Wins

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova has the second-best record among active players in first-round matches at the majors, and she gave an illustration of why that is the case with a ruthless 6-0, 6-0 victory over Harriet Dart at the Australian Open on Monday.

Sharapova, the 2008 Australian Open champion, got play started on Rod Laver Arena and needed only 63 minutes to advance.

And Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed on the men’s side, followed her on the main court with a straightforward win over No. 238-ranked James Duckworth of Australia.

In her 15th trip to Melbourne Park and her 55th Grand Slam tournament, Sharapova is acutely aware of the toll that the sun and long early matches can have on a player’s title ambitions, so she got straight to business.

Dart, 22, playing in the main draw of a major for only the second time after getting a wild card to play last year at Wimbledon, got a look at only one break point in the match — when Sharapova served a double-fault in the second set. She got seven of her 29 points from Sharapova’s double faults.

Sharapova said she was still feeling pain in her right shoulder despite having sat out the end of last season after the United States Open.

“I think it’s very easy to be in a position where things are flowing, you know,” Sharapova said. “You’re doing all the right things, she’s making a few errors, you’re comfortable — easy to get complacent, and, you know, complacency is not great. I was glad that I did the right things from the beginning till the end.”

Up next for Sharapova is Rebecca Peterson, who beat Sorana Cirstea, 6-4, 6-1.

Fifth-seeded Sloane Stephens ended a three-match losing streak in first-round matches at Melbourne Park with a 6-4, 6-2 win over her fellow American Taylor Townsend.

Stephens lost in the first round of the Australian Open in 2015, 2016 and 2018. She missed the 2017 tournament here after having foot surgery and went on to win the U.S. Open later the same year.

Among the other seeded players who advanced were No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat Anna Kalinskaya, 6-1, 6-4; No. 19 Caroline Garcia; No. 29 Donna Vekic; and No. 31 Petra Martic.

Danielle Collins advanced to the second round of a major for the first time with a 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory over No. 14-seeded Julia Görges, who won the title in Auckland to start the season.

Katie Boulter earned the distinction of winning the first 10-point tiebreaker under the Australian Open’s new system for deciding sets. She beat Ekaterina Makarova, 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (6), including a 10-6 score in the tiebreaker.

Nadal earned his 15th win in 17 matches against wild cards at Grand Slam tournaments by beating Duckworth, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

Nadal’s only previous defeats to wild-card entrants at major events were against the American James Blake in the third round of the 2005 United States Open and the Australian Nick Kyrgios in the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2014.

Nadal’s only stumble as he served for the match and was broken by Duckworth, who got back to 5-4. But Nadal returned the favor, breaking the Australian in the final game of the match.

Fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson won his first match at Melbourne Park since 2015, beating Adrian Mannarino, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1. Also advancing on the men’s side were No. 19 Nikoloz Basilashvili and No. 26 Fernando Verdasco.


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