Sharapova advances in Australian Open


Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia

Maria Sharapova ticked off more items on her “to do” list at the Australian Open, returning to center court and accounting for the only person who has beaten her at a Grand Slam since her comeback from a doping ban.

Sharapova advanced to the third round with a 6-1, 7-6 (4) win over No. 14-seeded Anastasija Sevastova as the temperature began to rise at Melbourne Park.

With a forecast high of 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), Sharapova appeared to be in a hurry to get off the Rod Laver Arena court ASAP and won the first set in 23 minutes.

The five-time major winner was broken while serving or the match, but recovered quickly in the subsequent tiebreaker to advance in the tournament.

Ninth-seeded Johanna Konta was more exposed to the heat on an outside court, and lost to U.S. lucky loser Bernarda Pera 6-4, 7-5.

No. 123-ranked Pera is making her Grand Slam debut and, after losing in the last round of qualifying, didn’t even know she had a spot in the main draw until Monday when Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan withdrew with an injury.

Konta saved three match points in the ninth game of the second set, then broke Pera to level at 5-all.

But Pera clinched it on her fifth match point when Konta, a semifinalist here in 2016, shanked an overhead at the net.

Sharapova is playing at Melbourne Park for the first time since serving a 15-month doping ban for testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open. She lost to Sevastova in the fourth round at the U.S. Open last September in her return to Grand Slam tennis.

The 30-year-old Russian is one of just two Australian Open winners in the women’s draw. They could meet in the third round if Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champion, beats Donna Vekic on Thursday.

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