NEW YORK: After missing last year’s US Open with a shoulder injury, former champion Maria Sharapova returned to the spotlight with an impressive 6-3, 6-0 victory over Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria on Tuesday.
Several hours after Russian compatriot Dinara Safina came perilously close to becoming the first No 1-seeded woman to lose in this major tournament’s first round, 2006 champion Sharapova gave a much stronger performance. The three-time Grand Slam champion produced 29 winners — a whopping 23 more than her 98th-ranked opponent. Sharapova showed no signs of the shoulder tear that forced her to have surgery in October and kept her off the tour for nearly 10 months.
Former No 1 Ana Ivanovic, seeded 11th, was bundled out in the first round by 52nd-ranked Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7). The Serb had the worst showing ever by a top-seeded woman in New York last year when she exited in the second round. Ivanovic did herself one worse this time.
Nearly undone by 11 double-faults and 48 total unforced errors, Safina was a point away from a 4-0 deficit in the third set before coming back to beat Olivia Rogowska of Australia 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4. Safina, younger sister of 2000 US Open champion Marat Safin, is used to faring well in the early stages of Grand Slam tournaments.
Neither Safina nor Rogowska played particularly well. They combined for 24 double-faults, 113 unforced errors and 15 service breaks over 2 1/2 hours. Afterward, Safina found two things to be happy about: She didn’t break any rackets — something big brother Marat is known for — and she didn’t receive any warnings from the chair umpire.
The day did feature the occasional upset: 276th-ranked Jesse Witten of the United States, knocked off No 29-seeded Igor Andreev of Russia 6-4, 6-0, 6-2; Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium defeated No 16 Virginie Razzano of France 6-4, 6-3; and Shahar Peer of Israel eliminated No 32 Agnes Szavay of Hungary 6-2, 6-2.
Otherwise, winners included 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, past runners-up Elena Dementieva of Russia and Serbian Jelena Jankovic, No 9
Caroline Wozniacki of
Denmark and Russian
No 13 Nadia Petrova.
Men’s winners included second-seeded Andy Murray of Britain, 2008 Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France along with Spanish No 10 Fernando Verdasco, No 11 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, No 16 Marin Cilic of Croatia, Czech No 17 Tomas Berdych and No 22 Sam Querrey of the US.