Sharapova Stunned; Clijsters, Henin Win at Australian Open
by Staff | January 18th, 2010, 9:01 am

Former Aussie Open champ and No. 14 seed Maria Sharapova made the highest-profile exit on the opening day in Melbourne Monday, falling 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4 in an all-Maria, all-Russian match to compatriot Maria Kirilenko.
Whether it was the former No. 1’s tentative play or the beginnings of a mustache she exhibited in close-ups during her post-match conference that were more stunning, nonetheless the Russian clearly paid for her lack of match play entering the event, choosing Asian exhibition cash-grabs over playing WTA events entering the first Grand Slam of the year.

“I don’t really know what ‘match practice’ has to do with being up 4-2, 15-40 and not making a second serve return, so…” Sharapova told reporters in her post-match conference. “Whether it’s just a little bit of, um, you know, maybe confidence, um, obviously it’s the first tournament of the year and, you know, I just came up against somebody that just played really good tennis. That’s just the way it goes.”

It was Sharapova’s earliest exit from a Grand Slam since the 2003 French Open as Operation Shoulder Your Confidence (get it? huh? ha!) continues for the Russian. Last year she lost in the second round at the US Open.

“It’s never easy. I’m good friends with Maria,” Kirilenko told the media. “I tried my best to win today — I came here quite confident.”

The day was less difficult for No. 2-seeded Dinara Safina, who was unspectacular yet steady again Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4, 6-4.

“Let’s say it was not an easy first-round match,” Safina said. “She’s a very good opponent. She plays very good. I had some good moments and bad moments, but overall I’m happy I went through, and I’m pretty satisfied with everything…Just from this I can start to build up much more confidence and using more my shots.”
Other Top 10 seeds in action were (3) Svetlana Kuznetsova rolling over Aussie Anastasia Rodionova 6-1, 6-2, and (5) Elena Dementieva pummeling fellow Russian Vera Dushevina 6-2, 6-1.
The Belgian comeback players advanced out of the opening round Monday, with No. 15 Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin both winning in straight sets.

“It wasn’t easy conditions for me to play my first match in Grand Slam for a long time,” Henin said of the rain delays. “It’s been difficult conditions today. I’ve been lucky I could play. I mean, so I was happy with that. In the match, it wasn’t that easy because there wasn’t a lot of rhythm. So I was feeling a bit with no energy at the beginning, you know, after the long wait.”

In other unseeded action, Aussie Jelena Dokic’s campaign was a short one, losing in straight sets to No. 27 seed  Alisa Kleybanova. Yanina Wickmayer, forced to play through the qualifying, was a first-round winner, and Jie Zheng defeated Shuai Peng in a lopsided all-Chinese battle 0-6, 6-1, 6-2.

“The first one, well, it wasn’t too long, so I just try to stay warm and go on court again,” Wickmayer said of surviving two rain delays. “The second one I ate something, since it was a long time I haven’t eat. So I went to get some treatment for my back, which was hurting a lot. Warmed up again and went back on court.”

Dokic will see a rankings drop after last year reaching the quarterfinals.

“It was a poor performance. Yeah, very disappointed with today,” Dokic said. “Yeah, this whole month hasn’t been great. It’s unfortunate and I would have liked to have played better. But, you know, in a way I’m glad it’s over. I can move on. I have to really refocus on.”

Tuesday’s highlights include (1) Serena Williams vs. Urszula Radwanska, Julie Coin vs. Alicia Molik, Lucie Safarova vs. (4) Venus Williams in an upset alert, American Shenay Perry vs. (20) Ana Ivanovic, (26) Aravane Rezai vs. embattled Indian princess Sania Mirza, embattled American Melanie Oudin vs. Alla Kudryavtseva, French comer Alize Cornet vs. (17) Francesca Schiavone, and (25) Anabel Medina “Funky Cold” Garrigues vs. Karolina “The Spreminator” Sprem.

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19 Comments for Sharapova Stunned; Clijsters, Henin Win at Australian Open

tennis served fresh Says:

Funny you guys noticed Sharapova’s mustache…I saw that too. I kept trying to convince myself that it was just a shadow, but I guess not. One thing that I noticed is that during the Sharapova match, each player was taking upwards of 35 seconds between points. The chair umpire didn’t even warn them! Why even have that rule if it’s not being enforced. Yeesh, oh well. At least it will be a good tournament, Roddick seems to be in good form too.

SG Says:

Sharapova plays with little margin for error. When she’s on, look out. When she’s really off you get the match with Kirilenko (77 UE’s). She needs to get some more matches under her belt and she’ll be OK. She looks like she’s hitting the ball well. For a top level athlete, there’s a very fine line between winning and losing. The line’s about as wide as a knife’s edge.

puckbandit Says:

I like Sharapova, she definitely keeps the game more interesting with her personality and fight, if not with her one-dimensional game. I thought that by now in her career she would have developed a “plan b” for when her “all or nothing” aggressive game wasn’t getting it done. She better watch out or the fleeter of foot women in today’s game are going to keep her off the trophy stand.

sam Says:

all athletes realize there are good days and bad days, win and lose days…how rude and strange for someone to mention a mustache…I guess folks are used to doctored up perfection on the covers of magazines such as “O”…grow up…get real!

Kimmi Says:

The guy playing with verdasco right now (ball) is going with Verdasco shot for shot. Looks like it is going to be a good match.

Kimmi Says:

Ball takes the first set. If he continues like this he will cause un upset..I know its early days but he playing very well.

Kimmi Says:

Verdasco eventually breaks, now serving for the 2nd set..great match

Kimmi Says:

Ah awful serving for set from verdasco, double fault and horrendous errors . Ball breaks back with beautiful volley. What about Ball volleys..they have been awesome.
Tie break. C’moon verdasco

Kimmi Says:

verdasco sealed the 2nd set, what a horrible tie break from ball, a complete collapse..maybe this is what verdasco needs. Ball seem to have gone off the boil, verdasco could win this match now if he concentrates.

Polo Says:

I am glad the AO is one less noisy woman now. Sharapova shatters my eardrums and the earlier she gets dismissed the better it is for me. I expect this trend of early losses for her to continue. I also thinks she is so full of herself. Just watch her interviews…especially after that loss to Kirilenko.

Polo Says:

That moustache of Sharapova may be from steroids.

Kimmi Says:

Verdasco takes 3rd set. Now he just needs one more set…

contador Says:

hey kimmi! did you see the rafa match yesterday? i just watched the replay. his shorts are an eye-sore but appears he is got a pair that are less apt to you know, get stuck let’s say.

watching serena, but anticipating federer/andreev. whoop!

Kimmi Says:

lol contador. did not see Rafa. But, I think it does not matter how apt they are..they always get stuck.

I am also waiting for the Fed..Serena match is boring for me, no challenge, but the match seem to take too long with that kind of score, does not make sense. aha..she wins eventually…as you see I have been watching and supporting hot sauce. I love his game when his head is straight. Great win for him. ball was a tough cookie.

Kimo Says:

Let’s Go, Rogeeeeerrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!

Kimo Says:

Roger is hitting to many UEs and playing into Igor’s strength: the forehand.

Kimmi Says:

Kimo, go to

“Federer, Serena Headed for Australian Open Titles Again?” everybody is there…

steve Says:

Andreev was not the opponent I’d have chosen for Federer’s opening match. Huge serve + huge spinny forehand means trouble. The guy just waits until he has a chance and goes for it. Tough to play without match practice.

If Federer gets through, though, it’ll have been good practice.

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