Sharapova makes winning start in Madrid

Sharapova makes winning start in Madrid

MADRID - Agence France-Presse
Sharapova makes winning start in Madrid

Maria Sharapova of Russia returns a shot to Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania during their women’s singles match at the Madrid Open tennis tournament. REUTERS photo

Maria Sharapova survived a sticky start to move into the second round of the WTA Madrid Open on May 6 with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania.

The Russian, who won the French Open on clay last year, brought a 16-match winning streak on the surface into Madrid and was strongly favored to coast past a player who has been dogged by knee injuries.

But she struggled at times in the first set before finding her range in the second.

It had all been about adjusting to the dirt surface and the particular demands of playing in Madrid, Sharapova said.

“I feel like in the last week I’ve really had to adjust to the different circumstances and the environment a bit,” she said.

“When I got here it was really cold and the ball and the court were really heavy. A few days have passed and it’s like a whole ‘nother tournament.

“For me, it’s just been about adjusting when you play indoors for over a week and you get back here and see the sun for the first time. It’s a bit of an adjustment.

“The altitude as well. So I think there are a lot of things that come into playing when you’re playing here.”

The stakes are high for Sharapova in Spain as she could regain the world number one spot from Serena Williams if the results go her way.

Williams won in straight sets on May 5 and the two could face off in the championship match at the end of the week.

Another former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus had a tough battle but the third-seeded Belarus player came through in two tie-breaks 7-6 (10/8), 7-6 (7/3) against the in-form Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who won the Portuguese Open last week.

Azarenka, who opened the Grand Slam season with an Australian Open win, said that it had been the perfect match to return to after being away with a right ankle injury she suffered in late ebruary at the Indian Wells tournament. “Well, yeah, it was a tough match,” said the 23-year-old.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could have asked for a better match to start after a break. Obviously she’s (her opponent) playing really good now. She won a tournament. It’s a great test for me for the first match.”