Melbourne: World No.5 Maria Sharapova shone in her first round match at the Australian Open tennis tournament, serving up a straight set singles victory over Japanese Nao Hibino here on Monday. There were question marks surrounding Sharapova’s health after she withdrew from her only lead-up event in Brisbane due to a left forearm injury suffered in practice, but there were no ill effects as the No.5-seeded Russian powered past Hibino in an hour and 13 minutes, 6-1, 6-3 at the Margaret Court Arena.
“It was just nice to get on court and face the opportunity of playing a first match,” Sharapova said afterwards. “No matter how much you train, it’s always different when you walk out onto the court. It’s definitely a relief to get that first one out of the way,” she said after the win. Sharapova was also told she’s Hibino’s idol and that the Japanese has posters of her on her wall. “She’s got to take those off! It’s time to put her posters up there,” Sharapova said.
“I actually hadn’t heard much about her, and I hadn’t seen too much of her game before I went on the court today. She actually likes the pace and takes the pace quite well. For a first Grand Slam performance I thought she was there till the end. That’s impressive. She never let in, never gave up.” “I mean, experience is priceless for anyone, but especially for someone that’s just starting out in their Grand Slam experience,” Sharapova added. “I’m sure she’ll have a great future ahead of her.”
Sharapova has now won 46 of her last 47 Grand Slam first round matches – her only loss in the first round of a Grand Slam since 2003 came at the hands of Maria Kirilenko at the 2010 Australian Open.