World No. 3 Maria Sharapova is through to the second round of the Australian Open, where she will meet Karin Knapp for the second time. The two athletes meet five years ago at the French Open – a match Sharapova won in straight sets.
Sharapova was arguably given the toughest opening round match of all the top seeds, when she was drawn to face Mattel-Sands, who was riding high off her win over Radwanska last week. While it may not have been the prettiest of matches, Sharapova got the job done in the end with 29 winners to her 28 unforced errors.
“I knew I had a tough opponent ahead of me,” Sharapova said. “Looking at her results in the last couple of weeks and last year and the matches that I’ve played against her, I knew that it was going to be a tough match. No matter what, I wanted to get through it, and that’s what it was about today.”
Sharapova was 5-0 against Mattek-Sands ahead of the match and added a sixth to their head-to-head series with her 6-3, 6-4 win. The Russian rushed to a 3-1 lead in the second set but Mattek-Sands remained determined and evened the score at 4-4 before dropping serve on a double fault to allow Sharapova entry into the second round of the tournament.
This marked Sharapova’s first Grand Slam match since her second round loss at the Wimbledon Championships last year. She is one of the few women who has managed to complete a career Grand Slam and was certainly excited to be back on Rod Laver Arena, where she lifted the trophy back in 2008.
“I was happy just to play out there today, despite the heat or anything. I’ve been out of the game for a while, so I was just happy to be back in that Grand Slam atmosphere.”
Sharapova and Knapp previously met at the 2008 French Open, where the Russian won the match with a convincing 7-6, 6-0 scoreline. While that was over four years ago, the world No. 3 is in formidable form and will be an even larger threat on the hard courts in Melbourne.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova in Straight Sets