A quarter of women’s seeds fall but Sharapova lays down marker

Frank Dalleres
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WORLD No2 Maria Sharapova bucked the trend on a disastrous first day for seeds in the women’s draw at the Australian Open yesterday by ruthlessly despatching Croatian Petra Martic.

Sharapova, who can reclaim top spot in the WTA rankings by winning the year’s first grand slam, laid down a marker with a convincing 6-4, 6-1 defeat of No184 Martic in Melbourne.

“There were quite a few upsets today,” said the five-time slam winner. “Of course I was very well aware of that. I certainly didn’t want to be one of them.”

The display continued the Russian’s fine start to the year, having prepared for the tournament by winning one of its traditional precursors, the Brisbane International, earlier this month.

But Ana Ivanovic, who lost to Sharapova in the Brisbane final, was one of several big names to fall as a quarter of the 32 seeds in the women’s draw were eliminated.

Fifth seed Ivanovic lost to Czech Lucie Hradecka, who is ranked 137 places below the Serb, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 as she crashed out of the Australian Open at the first hurdle for only the second time.

“The whole match I didn’t really feel like myself out there,” she said. “It was really tough for me to find my rhythm. It’s really disappointing. It’s probably the worst thing that could happen.

“But still, the year is young and I really have to now work on a few things and try to have a different approach to this kind of event and try to see what was lacking.”

Two-time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki and ninth seed Angelique Kerber also suffered shock first-round exits.

Third seed Simona Halep and seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard both progressed with ease, beating Italy’s Karin Knapp and German Anna-Lena Friedsam respectively.