Safina, Clijsters through as Sharapova crashes out

MELBOURNE - Former champion Maria Sharapova crashed out of the Australian Open on Monday but there were no dramas for Dinara Safina and Kim Clijsters who spearheaded the charge into the second round.

By (AFP)

Published: Mon 18 Jan 2010, 12:19 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:56 AM

American Andy Roddick also cruised through, in stark contrast to former world number one Sharapova who was a shadow of her former self in a 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-4 defeat to fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko.

It was a disastrous start to the year for the underdone 22-year-old, seeded 14, who opted to only play exhibitions in Thailand and Hong Kong as a warm-up to the opening Grand Slam of the season.

Playing with the roof closed on the Rod Laver Arena due to rain, which disrupted play on outside courts, she struggled to find consistency against a player ranked 58.

“I certainly had my chances and just didn’t execute,” she said.

“There is no grey area. It was just up and down in many areas, and just finished at the down level.”

The Russian pin-up won here in 2008 but was deprived of defending her title last year after failing to recover from shoulder surgery which kept her out of action until May.

Another of the Russian contingent, Safina, downed Slovakia’s 47th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4, 6-4.

But she too had her work cut out as she battled double faults and unforced errors in an emotional and spasmodic performance.

The 23-year-old, who struggled with a back problem at the end of last year and was playing in only her seventh match since mid-September, was happy just to stay in the tournament.

“It was not an easy first round match, she’s a very good opponent,” said the number two seed, who was thrashed in the final last year by Serena Williams.

“I had some good moments and bad moments, but overall I’m happy I went through.”

She added that her back was no longer a problem and she was fired up for this season.

“I feel like I’m back and I’m enjoying every moment on the court,” said Safina, who next faces either Russian qualifier Regina Kulikova or Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Clijsters, who sensationally won the US Open last year after coming out of retirement, was too good for Canada’s Valerie Tetreault, romping home 6-0, 6-4 in under an hour.

The Belgian, along with Justine Henin, lurk as dark horses to bookmakers’ favourite Williams, who gets her title defence underway on Tuesday against Poland’s Urszula Radwanska.

On the men’s side, American seventh seed Roddick motored past Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 to stay on track for a potential quarter-final clash with US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro.

Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic also progressed, with the 24th seed crushing 16-year-old Australian wildcard Jason Kubler, the youngest player in the draw, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

Former finalist Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, seeded 11, stayed alive with a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Belgian Olivier Rochus.

World number two and defending champion Rafael Nadal plays later Monday, against Australia’s Peter Luczak in a night match.

On the Spaniard’s side of the draw, Andy Murray is a key threat with the Scot also in action Monday against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.

World number one Roger Federer opens his tournament on Tuesday against Russia’s Igor Andreev with third seed Novak Djokovic and sixth seed Nicolay Davydenko posing the main threat for him in his top half of the draw.

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