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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sharapova survives teen; Federer advances


NEW YORK (AP/AFP) — Maria Sharapova came back from a set and a break down against 19-year-old Heather Watson of Britain to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the opening round of the US Open on Monday.

“It’s just a matter of belief within myself, that no matter how well or bad or good I’m playing, or my opponent is playing, I know I can tough it out,” the No. 3-seeded Sharapova said after her 2 1/2-hour victory. “No matter what the

situation is, I have the belief.”

That self-confidence comes not merely from her success in three-setters this season, but also from three Grand Slam titles, including the 2006 US Open. It’s the sort of track record the 102nd-ranked Watson hopes to have one day;

Monday’s match was only her fifth at a major tournament.

Sharapova won six Grand Slam matches at Wimbledon alone this summer, reaching the final there before losing to Petra Kvitova. Fresh off that triumph, Kvitova – a 21-year-old from the Czech Republic seeded No. 5 in Flushing Meadows – failed to follow it up, flopping at the US Open with a 7-6 (3), 6-3 loss to 48th-ranked Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania.

Meantime, five-time champion Roger Federer reached the second round of the US Open on Monday, beating Colombian Santiago Giraldo 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

The third-seeded Swiss needed one hour and 16 minutes under the lights on the Arthur Ashe stadium court to advance to the next round where he will face Israel's Dudi Sela.

Sela beat Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-0.

Kvitova is the first reigning Wimbledon women’s champion to lose her first match at the U.S. Open in the same season. Only three times had the Wimbledon winner bowed out as early as the third round in New York: Sharapova in 2004, Conchita Martinez in 1994, and Billie Jean King in 1973.

“This is something new for me,” Kvitova said about her new status as Grand Slam champion. “I’ve felt a little pressure.”

She was the only seeded woman to exit on Day 1 of the year’s last major tournament, joined on the way out by No. 15 Viktor Troicki of Serbia, a 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 loser against Alejandro Falla of Colombia.

At night, 2000 and 2001 US Open champion Venus Williams played her first match in two months and beat 91st-ranked Vesna Dolonts of Russia 6-4, 6-3. Williams hit six aces and 28 total winners against the weary Dolonts, who spent 12 hours traveling from Moscow on Monday after having flights canceled Saturday and Sunday because of Tropical Storm Irene.

“My game is built on my serve, and of course, I like to follow it up with a lot of aggressive play,” said Williams, who pulled out of recent tuneup tournaments because of a virus. “And it’s great to see a lot of those balls land in.”

Early winners included No. 8 Mardy Fish of the United States, who beat Tobias Kamke of Germany 6-2, 6-2, 6-1; No. 9 Tomas Berdych of Germany, the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up; No. 13 Richard Gasquet of France; No. 22 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine; and No. 27 Marin Cilic of Croatia.

Advancing along with Sharapova to the second round were No. 2 Vera Zvonareva of Russia, a finalist last year at Wimbledon and the US Open; 16-year-old Madison Keys – the youngest and, at 455th, lowest-ranked woman in the draw – who beat 37-year-old fellow American Jill Craybas 6-2, 6-4; and No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who beat her younger sister Urszula Radwanska 6-2, 6-3.

But surprise 2009 US Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin of the United States lost 6-0, 7-6 (7) to Romina Oprandi of Italy.


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