Sharapova sails through

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta

Sharapova

Maria Sharapova began her US Open challenge in impressive style, as she overcame Tsvetana Pironkova in straight sets in a first-round encounter at Flushing Meadows.

Despite a number of unforced errors from the Russian in the opening set, she soon found her feet and stormed to victory 6-3 6-0.

Sharapova, who won the US Open in 2006, began to take control of the match in the fifth game, as she broke a very defensive Pironkova and then held serve to take a 3-2 lead.

Pironkova – the only Bulgarian in the women’s draw – struggled to contain the fierce flurry of shots thrown at her from the other side of the court, and a double fault gifted Sharapova two break points which the Russian took advantage of.

But in the following game Pironkova, 22, seized a rare opportunity as Sharapova produced a host of unforced errors that saw her broken straight back to make it 5-3.

A weak second serve at set point in the next game allowed Sharapova to pounce and take the first set in just under 40 minutes.

Interestingly, it was Sharapova who had made the most unforced errors during the opening set with 17 compared to Pironkova’s 4.

The second set was a much more straightforward affair for the Russian, winning her first service game to 0 and storming to a 3-0 lead in under 11 minutes.

More soft second serves from Pironkova were punished with Sharapova wrapping up the match comfortably without dropping a game in the second.

It was an accomplished performance from Sharapova, who despite being currently ranked at number 31 in the world after being out of action with a shoulder injury, is still the fourth favourite to win this year’s title in New York.

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