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U.S. OPEN

Maria Sharapova shows power in win

The 22-year-old Russian, who had shoulder surgery last fall and is seeded 29th at the U.S. Open, beats Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-3, 6-0.

September 02, 2009|Diane Pucin

NEW YORK — Maria Sharapova came armed with her nerve and her serve Tuesday night on Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

Showing no evidence of an uncertain serve that has plagued her this summer, Sharapova dispatched Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-3, 6-0, in 73 minutes.

Sharapova missed the first five months of this season while recovering from last fall's shoulder surgery, and the 22-year-old Russian is seeded 29th. It is an unaccustomed place in the draw for a woman who was once ranked No. 1.

Sharapova said she was particularly happy with how she attacked the match by moving forward.

"It adds a little bit to my ground strokes," she said.

Earlier in the day, there had been more angst than oohs and aahs, more unforced errors and double faults, more head-slapping, head-turning tennis awfulness than inspiration from top-ranked, top-seeded Dinara Safina.

And at the end, it may have been cheers of pity rather than a roar of appreciation that Safina heard, but Safina didn't care.

She barely avoided becoming the first women's No. 1-seeded player to be a first-round loser with a 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Australian Olivia Rogowska.

It was as if Safina were using the stadium as a giant coaching and therapy session.

"If I would lose this match," she said, "it would be I lost to myself. It's me, myself and I playing on the court."

There was much less drama for two other Russians.

Fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva and sixth-seeded and 2004 Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova both had straight set wins. Dementieva next gets rising American star Melanie Oudin, 17.

In the final night match, the second-seeded men's player, Andy Murray, casually took out Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, 7-5, 6-3, 7-5. Murray took a hard fall and landed on his back in the third set but said he felt fine after the match.

Fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic (a semifinalist and runner up in his last two Opens) had a non-dramatic 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic.

Djokovic's Serbian countrywoman Jana Jankovic, who is seeded fifth, also moved smoothly into the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Italy's Roberta Vinci.

Stat of the day

One reason why five-set women's matches might be bad: Safina and Rogowska combined to commit 113 unforced errors. And they totaled 38 winners. In three sets.

Upset of the day

Remember when Ana Ivanovic was ranked No. 1? She was the 11th-seeded player in this tournament and lost to 52nd-ranked Kateryna Bondarenko, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7), in 2 hours, 25 minutes.

Quote of the day

Oudin, who has a twin sister, Katherine: "I've always wanted to be a pro tennis player and she's always wanted to be an obstetrician since we were little. That hasn't changed."

Today's

featured matches

At Arthur Ashe Stadium, but not before 10 a.m. PDT, third-seeded Venus Williams and her sore left knee will take on Bethanie Mattek-Sands, followed by the first appearance by Spain's third-seeded Rafael Nadal, against tricky French shotmaker Richard Gasquet. At 4 p.m., five-time defending champion Roger Federer takes on Simon Greul, then second-seeded Serena Williams faces Melinda Czink of Hungary.

Out and about around the grounds: in the third match at Louis Armstrong Stadium is comeback kid Kim Clijsters against 14th-seeded Marion Bartoli, then sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro against Juan Monaco in an all-Argentina match. At the Grandstand, not before 12:30 p.m., Long Beach's Vania King will face 15th-seeded Samantha Stosur.

--

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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