Former champion Maria Sharapova gave hapless Harriet Dart a 6-0 6-0 shellacking to fly into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday and had no words of comfort to offer the British qualifier after leaving her in tears.
In the opening match on Rod Laver Arena, the 30th seeded Russian was all over the 131st-ranked Dart from the first point and wrapped up the match in little more than an hour after a ruthless barrage of power hitting.
The centre court humiliation had Dart weeping as she beat a hasty exit and Sharapova had little sympathy for the 22-year-old after her nightmare debut at Melbourne Park.
“I mean, there is no time for that, I’m sorry to say,” the 2008 winner told reporters. “But when you’re playing the first round of a Grand Slam — I have been in many positions, last year Wimbledon I came out against a qualifier that played really well.
“You know, there is no doubt that my level wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but she was there to take the match.
“So I’m not so much worried about my opponent, but I have to step up when the time is right and when I need to, so that’s my main goal.”
Dart, who made her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon as a wildcard, briefly fired up the subdued terraces by grabbing a break point off Sharapova at 4-0 in the first set but blew the chance with an unforced error, one of 21 for the match.
She saved two match points in the final game but fell on the third with a clumsy volley that flew wide and neatly summarised her day.
“Tried some things — didn’t work,” the misty-eyed Briton told reporters, barely able to raise her voice above a whisper.
“She doesn’t really give you anything… It’s just unfortunate I didn’t get on the board.”
Dart was right about Sharapova not giving up many free points. The five-times Grand Slam champion landed 35 of her 36 returns, while blasting 20 winners in the rout.
Sharapova, who last tasted Grand Slam success at the 2014 French Open, had no taping on her limbs and moved well less than two weeks after being forced to retire with a thigh injury during her quarter-final clash at the Shenzhen Open.
The tall 31-year-old said she was still troubled by an injury to her right shoulder which forced her to cut her season short after the U.S. Open.
“That’s a good question,” she said, when asked whether her right arm could ever be fixed.
“I have asked Dr. Altchek that many times. I saw him beginning of December, and he says it’s a day-by-day pain management situation.”
Katie Boulter wins deciding set shootout after premature celebration
Katie Boulter became the first player to win a main draw match at the Australian Open under a revamped scoring system on Monday but not before losing her way during the new-look deciding set shootout. The Briton, who overcame dual Grand Slam semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova, thought she had won the first round match after reaching seven points in the third set tiebreak and celebrated accordingly.
Reminded the tie-break was an extended first-to-ten-points affair, the 22-year-old regrouped, won it 10-6 and was later able to see the funny side. “I was in the moment and I kind of forgot that it was first to 10 but I’m happy I could dig deep and get through it in the end,” said Boulter, who plays eleventh seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, in the second round. “I’ve got to take it light-heartedly. I ended up getting the win, I probably would have been really devastated had I not.”
While Boulter was the first player to win a first-to-ten-point tiebreak in the main draw, several tight qualifying matches already tested out the format. Scoring systems have been hotly debated ever since the so-called “endless match” between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, which ended after the American prevailed 70-68 in the fifth set after more than eight hours.
The debate reignited last year after Isner was again involved in an ultra-long match at Wimbledon, losing 26-24 in the deciding set to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in the semi-finals. On both occasions, the exhausted winner of the marathon contest lost their next match.
The lengthy contests also wreaked havoc with timetabling, shunting subsequent matches onto other courts, as well as the all-important television schedules. Each of the Grand Slams now utilise a different system for deciding deadlocked matches.
The U.S. Open and Australian Open both use tiebreaks when scores are locked at six games apiece in the deciding set, although the length of the final set tiebreak differs.
Wimbledon will this year utilise a tiebreak should scores get locked at 12 games each in the decider. This has left the French Open the sole major with the potential for an interminable match, where a player must secure a two-game advantage in the deciding set instead of engaging in a shoot-out.
Angelique Kerber untroubled as Australian Open campaign gets underway
Angelique Kerber brandished her credentials as a title contender at the Australian Open with a straight-forward 6-2 6-2 victory against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog on Monday. The Wimbledon champion minimised her time under the hot sun, where temperatures surpassed 30 degrees celsius (86°F) during the day-time matches in Melbourne, securing the straight sets win in just over an hour.
Her opponent, a former top-50 player, was too erratic to trouble the three-times Grand Slam winner, committing almost three times as many unforced errors as Kerber.
Kerber said her form improved during the match and her ball-striking was not side-tracked by the at-times inconsistent opponent.
“I played a lot of matches here already in Australia … I have my rhythm,” said Kerber, who played lead-up events in both Perth and Sydney.
Kerber was rarely challenged, and stepped up her relentless, grinding style on the handful of occasions she faced break points to move into the next round without losing any service games.
She will play Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second round in a battle between two left-handed counter-punchers who have not previously met.
Caroline Wozniacki through to second round with comfortable win
Caroline Wozniacki launched her title defence at the Australian Open with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 win against Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck in the first round on Monday. The third-seeded Dane broke Van Uytvanck once in each set and kept down her unforced errors to win the baseline battle in an hour and 33 minutes in the first match of the evening session at the Rod Laver Arena.
Van Uytvanck began well to set up a break point in the first game of the opening set but Wozniacki saved it with some big serving. Wozniacki converted her fifth break point of the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead and took the first set when her opponent sent a service return into the net. In the second set, the break came in the third game for Wozniacki and it proved to be enough.
“I think it was a good match in general. I was surprised of the consistency that she had. I think she played extremely well,” Wozniacki told reporters. “She really stepped it up with her serves I feel like in the second set. I was just happy I got the win. It was not an easy one.”
The 24-year-old Van Uytvanck, ranked 52, troubled Wozniacki with some well-disguised drop shots in the beginning but did not have enough to register her maiden win at Melbourne Park in her fifth appearance in both singles and doubles.
Former world number one Wozniacki, who is battling rheumatoid arthritis, was pleased she could reach the drop shots as the match progressed.
“She surprised me in the beginning with a couple of dropshots, especially when she was standing behind the baseline and I wasn’t expecting it,” Wozniacki added.
“Then I was more alert on it. I was happy with even a couple of them. I was like, ‘Oh, wow, these are really close to the net’. I’m like, ‘Wow, I actually got to them, hit it well’. I kind of complimented myself on a couple of them.”
Wozniacki sealed the match with a forehand winner on her third matchpoint and will next meet Sweden’s Johanna Larsson, who progressed after Vera Lapko of Belarus retired while trailing 7-6(5) 3-0.