Sharapova through after slow start

Maria Sharapova beat fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko in two sets (AP)

Maria Sharapova beat fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko in two sets (AP)

First published in National Sport © by

Maria Sharapova recovered from a slow start to defeat fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko and reach the second round of the US Open.

It was a potentially tough draw for Sharapova given Kirilenko was ranked in the top 10 last year before injury problems struck.

She did not play for the first three months of this season and has won only two matches all year, tumbling to 113th in the rankings.

But for six games Kirilenko more than matched Sharapova, breaking the fifth seed's serve for 3-2 and then holding her own.

Kirilenko was the last player to beat Sharapova in the opening round of a grand slam at the Australian Open in 2010.

She was quickly pegged back this time, though, Sharapova recovering to 4-4 and then breaking serve again to take the opening set.

Try as hard as she might, Kirilenko simply could not stem the run of games against her and by the end of a 6-4 6-0 victory, Sharapova had racked up 10 in a row.

To compound Kirilenko's misery, she also needed lengthy treatment to her left ankle.

The pair, who are both 27, have known each other since they were juniors and Sharapova said: "It's always tough.

"I played a tough opponent who is capable of playing really good tennis so it was a tough first round for me. I'm happy I stepped it up and I was able to finish really strong.

"She's been injured throughout the year so it's great to see her out here competing."

Sharapova missed the US Open last year because of a shoulder injury and was thrilled to be back under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"It was tough missing this court last year," she said. "I spent a few weeks in New York during the tournament. I couldn't follow the tennis, I was a little bit too sad."

The French Open champion next meets Romania's Alexandra Dulgheru.



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