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Rediff.com  » Sports » Aus Open: Sharapova punches out Puchkova to lead top trio into Rnd 2

Aus Open: Sharapova punches out Puchkova to lead top trio into Rnd 2

Last updated on: January 14, 2013 10:06 IST

Maria Sharapova swept aside any fears about her fitness with a ruthless 6-0, 6-0 victory over Olga Puchkova on Monday as a trio of top women progressed with ease on the first morning of the Australian Open.

Sharapova, the 2008 champion and runner up to Victoria Azarenka last year, was quickly joined in the second round by Venus Williams and Li Na after both the former losing finalists also enjoyed emphatic wins.

Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a backhand against Olga Puchklova at the Australian Open on MndayDespite the record temperatures which have gripped Australia for the last couple of weeks, the year's first grand slam opened in mild conditions under overcast skies at Melbourne Park.

There was nothing mild about Sharapova's demolition of Puchkova on Rod Laver Arena, however, and after saving a couple of break points in the opening game, she powered her way to victory over her compatriot in just 55 minutes.

Smashing winners at will, particularly off her forehand, the Russian showed no signs of the collar bone injury that saw her pull out of the Brisbane warm-up.

"I was happy with the way I started, considering I didn't play any matches coming in," said the 25-year-old.

"It was just one of those matches where I didn't try to worry about her too much, I just tried to think about what I had to do."

American Williams could meet Sharapova in the third round and proved she could be a handful for the second seed by winning 12 successive games to beat Kazakh Galina Voskoboeva 6-1, 6-0.

Williams, playing in an eye-catching self-designed dress inspired by watercolours, lost her only Australian Open final to her sister Serena in 2003.

Serena, an odds on favourite to clinch her sixth title this year, gets her campaign underway on Tuesday.

China's Li Na was losing finalist in 2011 a couple of months before she won the French Open and underlined her fine early season form with a 6-1 6-3 victory over another Kazakh, Sesil Karatantcheva.

Li, who won the inaugural Shenzhen Open two weeks ago, will face Belarusian Olga Govortsova in the second round as she continues to thrive under the guidance of Justine Henin's former coach Carlos Rodriguez.

"He's not only a teacher about tennis, not only about technique, he's also helping me get my mind stronger on court," Li said.

France's Julien Benneteau, raised into the 32nd and final seeding position after the withdrawal of John Isner, was the first man to taste victory in Melbourne this year when he thrashed rising Bulgarian talent Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Dimitrov, 21, has been nicknamed 'Baby Fed' because of his precocious talent but has yet to get past the second round at a grand slam in 10 attempts.

Novak Djokovic begins his title defence and bid for a third successive Australian Open title in the final match of the day session on Rod Laver Arena against Paul-Henri Mathieu of France.

Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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