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Sharapova motors past Maria in Aussie opener

MELBOURNE, Australia - From a break down in the second set, Maria Sharapova navigated her way past Tatjana Maria to score an opening round win at the Australian Open, 6-1, 6-4.

From 3-1 down in the second set, the 2008 champion won five of the last six games of the match, sprinting her way into the second round in just under 80 minutes.

Maria Sharapova made a winning return to the Australian Open on Tuesday, taking out Tatjana Maria in straight sets.
The former World No.1 improved her record in first rounds of Grand Slams to 48-3, and improved her record vs. Germans to 26-5.

"Every point was really important to me today," Sharapova said after the match. "I didn't know much about my opponent - very strange, considering I have been on tour many years and hadn't played her. She's been around for a while, as well.

"I felt it was a good warmup to what could possibly be a good match against my next opponent who I have had trouble with in the past. I wouldn't say they play the same game but a lot of similarities. I felt it was a good warmup toward that."

Accumulating 22 winners overall in the match, Sharapova was nearly spotless in the opening set as she broke serve three times, taking advantage of Maria's struggles behind her first serve.

The German landed just 38% of her first deliveries in the opening set, as Sharapova won nine of the 10 points played when the World No.47 was forced to hit a second serve.

"I feel like I'm building. I feel like with every tournament and every week I have different feelings about different things. Some things are coming a little slower than I wanted. Some things I feel good about," the Russian assessed.

"I still feel like I'm building physically and getting the match play in. I'm motivated to, with every week, to keep taking in what I have learned from that week and using it to my advantage in the following tournament. As long as I have that in my mind, it's okay."

Though Maria continued to struggle in landing her first serve in the second set, again serving at 38%, the World No.47 did a better job of countering Sharapova's attacking tennis.

Maria lifted the percentage of her points won behind her second serve to 56%, as she held in both of her first two service games of the set before earning her first break at love in the fourth game.

A double fault and a trio of unforced errors from Sharapova gave the German her first lead of the match, but aggressive striking from the Russian saw her strike a pair of winners en route to breaking from a 30-15 hole to get the match back on serve.

The break kicked off a run of four straight games for the five-time major champion, and though Maria held at love to force Sharapova to serve for the match, the Russian came through a testing game in which she trailed 15-30 to move through to the second round.

"I have been here a week, practicing on the courts. I got used to all the different weather conditions that Melbourne presents to all of us. It's been good," she added.

"I felt like I have got a lot of things out of the way physically and emotionally and mentally last year with -- there was a lot of firsts again for me, playing the first tournament, first Grand Slam, and just different feelings and what it would be routinely. It felt pretty routine today, [and I'm] just really happy to be back here."

Sharapova will face the winner of the first round match between No.14 seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her at the US Open, and American Varvara Lepchenko.

"Every draw is different and has its own challenges, and people are saying I have a tough draw. Personally, these are the players that I want to be playing," she said. "I want to be playing someone that has challenged me. I want to be playing someone that's on a hot streak and playing well. These are the players I should be playing and beating, as well.

"I expect that from myself. I want to put myself in that position to play against them no matter who it is in the past and I look forward to doing in the future."

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