Federer and Sharapova shine after seeds scattered

admin   •   January 20, 2015   •   2154

Roger Federer of Switzerland hits a return against Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan during their men’s singles first round match at the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 19, 2015.
CREDIT: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA

(Reuters) – Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova glittered under the Rod Laver Arena lights on Monday, restoring order at the Australian Open after eight women’s seeds crashed out in the afternoon sun on a manic opening day.

The evergreen Federer strolled into the second round with a classy 6-4 6-2 7-5 win over Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun before fellow second seed Sharapova ruined Croatian qualifier Petra Martic’s 24th birthday with a 6-4 6-1 victory.

Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray also enjoyed comfortable wins as three of the men’s ‘Big Four’ shook out the early-season rust.

Although the retired Li Na is not defending her singles title, the glowing Chinese stole the spotlight from the players when she announced she was expecting her first child with husband and former coach Jiang Shan.

“I think Dennis (Jiang) is doing a good job. He just made one ace,” said the 32-year-old crowd favorite on the Rod Laver Arena, sparking cheers from the terraces.

The hole left by the twice grand slam champion’s absence is begging to be filled and a rejuvenated Sharapova, dressed to kill in a smart red outfit, looked the part in a controlled display against the outgunned Martic.

Federer joined Sharapova in the winners’ circle at the Brisbane International this month and, on his coach Stefan Edberg’s 49th birthday, the Swiss notched his 1,001st tour win.

“Winning in the first round, it’s always a bit of a relief. I thought I played good,” the 33-year-old told reporters after dashing around the court like a frantic teenager against the 47th-ranked Lu.

GLORIOUS DAY

While seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard advanced with a straight-sets victory over 98th-ranked German Anna-Lena Friedsam, half of the 16 women’s seeds in action were swept away before the sun had set on a glorious day.

Fifth seed Ana Ivanovic was the highest-profile casualty, the former world number one falling in three sets to doubles specialist Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic.

Ninth-seeded German Angelique Kerber blamed a “bad day” at the office after being dumped out by Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu in three topsy-turvy sets.

Lucie Safarova (16), Carla Suarez Navarro (17) and twice grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova (27) were also among the eight sent packing.

It was steadier going on the men’s side where an undercooked Nadal felt the confidence flooding back after thrashing Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny.

Coming back after a long layoff from injury and illness, Nadal gloomily ruled himself out of title contention before the event but the Spaniard eased quickly into the grand slam groove with a 6-3 6-2 6-2 win.

“This first match here was tough mentally for me,” the 2009 champion said on center court, resplendent in a pink shirt and a fluorescent yellow headband.

“I hope this match will give me confidence as I play the next round.”

VERY DIFFICULT

Sixth seed Murray, bidding for a maiden Australian Open title after three trips to the final, opened up with a 6-3 6-4 7-6 (3) win over Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri, occasionally berating himself but pleased overall with his display at the refurbished Margaret Court Arena.

“The whole match he made it very difficult, he played very aggressively,” Murray said of Bhambri, the lowest-ranked player in the draw at 317.

“He shouldn’t be ranked 300 in the world.”

Romania’s Simona Halep, seeded third and fancied to break through for a maiden grand slam title this year, had few worries in a 6-3 6-2 rout of Italian Karin Knapp.

Men’s seventh seed Tomas Berdych went through without fuss while number 10 Grigor Dimitrov, tipped to rock the tennis establishment after a breakout 2014 season, showed ominous form with a 6-2 6-3 6-2 victory over German Dustin Brown.

(Additional reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O’Brien)

Tennis: All eyes on Stuttgart as Sharapova poised for return

UNTV News   •   April 26, 2017

FILE PHOTO: Russia’s Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 24, 2016. REUTERS/THOMAS PETER

Not much fazes Roberta Vinci after 16 years on Tour but the maelstrom swirling around her opening match in Stuttgart against Maria Sharapova will test even the Italian’s vast experience.

Her 946th singles might ordinarily have been one to chalk off and forget about but standing over the other side of the net on Wednesday will be the former world number one on her return from a 15-month doping ban.

Whatever else is happening on any other tennis court in the world will become irrelevant as Russian multi-millionaire Sharapova, who turned 30 last week, resumes a career that made her the world’s richest sportswoman.

Debate still rages about Sharapova’s crime and punishment.

While some say the five-times grand slam champion, initially banned for two years after testing positive for Meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, has done her time some fellow players are angry the red carpet is being rolled out.

With no ranking after such a long period without swinging her racket in anger, Sharapova could have been forced to work her way back from the lower rungs of the tennis ladder.

Instead, with tournament chiefs and sponsors well aware of her ticket-selling appeal she has been handed wildcards into the claycourt events in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome.

It is not an arrangement Vinci approves of. “My personal opinion is (I do) not agree about wild cards… about Rome, about other tournaments,” she said in a press conference at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart.

“She is a great player – I don’t have nothing against her. She made her mistakes for sure. She can return to play, but without wild cards. I know (Sharapova) is important for the WTA, for tennis, for everything. She is a great person, a great champion. My personal opinion is this.”

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska have also cried foul, believing a player returning from a doping ban should have to do it the hard way.

Sharapova, whose defense was that she had not realized Meldonium had been added to a list of banned substances at the start of 2016, insisted the substance is as common as aspirin in Russia where it is known as Mildronate.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) agreed that Sharapova was not an intentional doper shortened her ban from two years to 15 months.

While admitting her mistake, Sharapova has hardly been full of contrition and has criticized the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for failing to notify her that Meldonium, a medication she said she had used for a number of years to treat health issues, had indeed been flagged up by WADA as ‘performance enhancing’.

Only last week Sharapova’s agent Max Eisenbud stoked the fires by saying the likes of Wozniacki and Radwanska were “journeyman” players hoping to benefit from Sharapova’s exclusion.

Sharapova’s prospective second-round clash in Stuttgart against Poland’s Radwanska could be an awkward encounter.

A decision is expected soon on whether the French Tennis Federation (FFT) will fast-track the 2012 and 2014 Roland Garros champion into the French Open draw. Her only other route is to win the Stuttgart title so that she can boost her ranking to enter French Open qualifying.

What adds intrigue to Sharapova’s return is that it comes at a time with the WTA Tour reeling from the news that world number one and 23-times major champion Serena Williams will not play again this year after announcing she is pregnant.

With twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova recovering from being stabbed, former number one Victoria Azarenka still to return from childbirth the cupboard looks a little bare when it comes to headline acts.

So while Sharapova’s might get a lukewarm welcome in the locker room there is no question the money men will welcome her back with open arms, not least Porsche.

The German sports car giant is the lead partner of the Stuttgart event and also sponsor Sharapova.  — By Martyn Herman | LONDON

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Sharapova thanks her fans for support and loyalty

admin   •   March 11, 2016

Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 24, 2016. REUTERS/THOMAS PETER

Russia’s Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 24, 2016.
REUTERS/THOMAS PETER

Days after stunning the sports world by announcing she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January, Maria Sharapova thanked her fans for their “wonderful words” that put a smile on her face.

The Russian faces a ban of up to four years pending an investigation by the International Tennis Federation after testing positive for meldonium, which some researchers have linked to increased athletic performance and endurance.

“I woke up yesterday morning with an inbox, in full capacity of love and compassion,” five-times grand slam champion Sharapova, 28, posted on Facebook. “In this moment, I am so proud to call you my fans.

“Within hours of my announcement, you showed me support and loyalty, which I could only expect to hear when someone would be at the top of their profession. I wanted to let you know that your wonderful words put a smile on my face.

“I’d like to play again and hope to have the chance to do so. Your messages give me great encouragement. This message isn’t anything else but to say thank you. Thank you very much.”

Sharapova, who has struggled with multiple injuries in recent years but is known for her never-say-die approach to the game, said she was prepared to battle through her latest setback.

“New day, new start,” the former world number one wrote on Facebook. “It is fair to say that this day was not average.

“Nothing came to mind at 6am, except that I am determined to play tennis again and I hope I will have the chance to do so. I wish I didn’t have to go through this, but I do – and I will.

“I needed to sweat, to push through and grind as I have done most of my life, so I made my way to the gym. That’s when I realized a bunch of tinted windowed cars were following me. The good old paparazzi, back on the trail.”

Sharapova, the world’s highest-earning sportswoman, has accepted full responsibility for her mistake in taking a drug that has been outlawed since Jan. 1, having previously used it on the advice of her family doctor for a decade.

The International Tennis Federation’s anti-doping program calls for a four-year suspension for a positive test. That ban can be reduced in various circumstances, such as if the player shows no significant fault or negligence.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Indian Wells, California; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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Sharapova withdraws from Indian Wells with arm injury

admin   •   March 4, 2016

Russia's Maria Sharapova reacts as she watches compatriot Ekaterina Makarova play against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands during their Fed Cup World Group tennis match in Moscow, February 6, 2016. REUTERS/GRIGORY DUKOR

Russia’s Maria Sharapova reacts as she watches compatriot Ekaterina Makarova play against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands during their Fed Cup World Group tennis match in Moscow, February 6, 2016.
REUTERS/GRIGORY DUKOR

Former world number one Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from this month’s BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California due to a persistent arm injury, the Russian said on Thursday in a statement from tournament organizers.

The five-times grand slam champion has been troubled by her left forearm since the start of the year when she pulled out of an Australian Open warm-up tournament in Brisbane.

Sharapova lost to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January and has not competed since then.

“I am extremely disappointed that I am unable to compete in this year’s BNP Paribas Open,” said world number seven Sharapova, who won the Indian Wells title in 2006 and 2013.

“I have been focused on healing my left forearm injury and tried to get my body to be 100 percent ready to play this event, as it is one of my favorite events on the WTA and so close to my home in LA.”

In the absence of Sharapova, Colombia’s Mariana Duque-Marino moves into the main women’s draw at Indian Wells.

Williams is the top seed for the women’s event at the BNP Paribas Open, which will be played from March 9-20.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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