Sharapova suffers early exit as Nadal, Clijsters, Henin win easily

10:06, January 19, 2010      

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Russia's Maria Sharapova crashed out of the Australian Open on Monday as the tennis Grand Slam began in rain, while Dinara Safina, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Rafael Nadal adavanced to Round 2.

Sharapova, the 2008 champion at Melbourne Park and seeded 14th this year, lost 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4 to compatriot Maria Kirilenko.

"I could be disappointed or I could just take it as it is and just go back on the court and just keep working. I choose option two," Sharapova told a press conference after the match.

Sharapova made 66 unforced errors in the 3-hour, 22-minute match. The contest was 11 minutes shorter than the longest women's singles match in tournament history and took place under a closed roof at Rod Laver Arena as rain caused a backlog on the outside courts.

No. 2 Safina was the first player to advance with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova.

Nadal began his title defence with a 7-6 (7-0), 6-1, 6-4 victory over Australia's unseeded Peter Luczak, who had the backing of the crowd. Top-ranked Roger Federer plays tomorrow.

Fifth-seeded Andy Murray and No. 7 Andy Roddick also advanced in straight sets, protected from the elements by the roofs on the two main courts. Murray eased through 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 against South Africa's Kevin Anderson. Roddick of the U.S. defeated Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

U.S. Open champion Del Potro, the No. 4 seed, dropped the third set against unseeded American Michael Russell before advancing 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Clijsters, who's won two of the five tournaments she's played since returning from a two-year absence during which she had a child, took half an hour less to ease past Canadian qualifier Valerie Tetreault 6-0, 6-4.

"To me it doesn't feel like a comeback anymore," Clijsters told reporters.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Henin, playing in her first major since the 2008 Australian Open after 20 months in retirement, defeated fellow Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-3.

"It wasn't that easy because there wasn't a lot of rhythm," Henin said. "I was feeling a bit with no energy at the beginning after the long wait. In the second set I started to be a bit more aggressive, and I think I was better at the end."

Henin will face Elena Dementieva in the second round. The fifth-seeded Dementieva beat fellow Russian Vera Dushevina 6-2, 6-1.

Zheng Jie came from a set down to beat Peng Shuai 0-6, 6-1, 6-2 in an all-Chinese showdown and booked her place in the second round.

Zheng, a semifinalist at Wimbledon Open 2008, will next face 24th seeded Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, who demolished Russian Evgeniya Rodina 6-0, 6-0 to advance.

No. 24 Ivan Ljubicic and 2007 runner-up Fernando Gonzalez were among the other winners on the men's side. Thirteenth-seeded Radek Stepanek lost in five sets to Ivo Karlovic.

Source: Xinhua
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