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Maria Sharapova enjoys winning return to Australian Open, Milos Raonic crashes out

Maria Sharapova downed Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-1, 6-4 at the Australian Open tennis championship while Milos Raonic lost to Lukas Lacko 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(4).

tennis Updated: Jan 16, 2018 10:07 IST
Agencies, Melbourne
Australian Open,Maria Sharapova,Milos Raonic
Maria Sharapova celebrates after beating Tatjana Maria in the first round of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Tuesday.(REUTERS)

Former champion Maria Sharapova enjoyed a winning return to the Australian Open as she wore down Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-1, 6-4 on Tuesday to take her place in the second round.

The 30-year-old Russian, who served a 15-month doping ban last year after testing positive for banned substance meldonium after her Melbourne defeat by Serena Williams in 2016, met some rugged resistance but had too much power for Maria.

There was plenty of support for 47th ranked five-times grand slam champion Sharapova with regular shouts of “C’mon Masha, we’ve missed you” around the Margaret Court Arena.

Her opponent was actually one place higher on the WTA rankings and the same age as Sharapova, but there was a vast difference in pedigree with the German never having gone beyond the third round in 22 previous grand slams.

Sharapova, who won the title 10 years ago, dropped serve to lose her only game in the opening set, although the rallies were often drawn out with Maria showing tenacious scrambling skills.

She was made to work harder in the second but sealed victory with an ace to book a second round against either 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova or Varvara Lepchenko.

“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been here so I wanted to enjoy the moment and it was really meaningful to be out here today,” Sharapova said in a post-match interview.

“I’ve got shivers, I cherish these moments.”

Raonic crashes out

Former world No 3 Milos Raonic was sent tumbling out of the Australian Open first round by Lukas Lacko, the Canadian’s earliest Grand Slam exit since the 2011 French Open.

On the comeback trail after a 2017 season disrupted by injury, Raonic looked off the pace as he was picked apart 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(4) by the 86th ranked Slovak on showcourt two.

Raonic had reached the last eight in his last three visits to Melbourne, making the semi-finals in 2016, and his ability to fire down a thunderous ace kept him in the contest until the fourth set tiebreak.

Two more aces, taking his match tally to 36, briefly gave 22nd seed Raonic a 4-3 lead but he was unable to match Lacko’s accuracy and mobility and the Slovak progressed to meet Argentine Nicolas Kicker or local Jordan Thompson in round two.

First Published: Jan 16, 2018 10:03 IST