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Tennis Roundup: Sharapova, Halep off to flying 2018 starts

Last updated on: January 02, 2018 01:21 IST

Maria Sharapova

IMAGE: Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after winning. Photograph: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

World number one Simona Halep swatted aside American Nicole Gibbs while Maria Sharapova was flawless in her straight sets victory over Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu in the opening round of the Shenzhen Open on Monday.


Halep, who sealed a 6-4, 6-1 victory, struck three aces and fired 12 winners and was at her aggressive best to set up a second round clash with China's Duan Yingying who defeated Evgeniya Rodina 6-2, 7-5.

"It's always nice to play here in Shenzhen," said Halep, who captured the Shenzhen Open title in 2015.

"It's my first victory this year as number one in the world, so I'm happy and enjoying the time."

Five-time major winner Sharapova hit 18 winners and needed an hour and 22 minutes to despatch the seasoned Buzarnescu 6-3, 6-0 for a winning start to the year.

"Every match gets tougher and as a competitor and someone who tries to be realistic, I like to only look ahead to the next opponent," Sharapova said after the match.

The Russian next faces 2017 runner-up Alison Riske, who upset China's fifth seed Wang Qiang on Sunday.

"She beat a crowd favourite yesterday, so I know I have a tough match ahead, but I just want to keep playing better, and keep improving no matter who is across the net."

Unseeded Danka Kovinic, ranked 123 in the world, stunned Greek seventh-seeded Maria Sakkari 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Local hope Zhang Shuai powered past Russia's Anna Blinkova 6-3, 6-4 and was joined in the next round by Timea Babos who beat China's Wang Xiyu 6-1, 6-1.

Ramkumar sets up 2nd round clash with Cilic

Making a stupendous start to the fresh season, Ramkumar Ramanathan scalped higher-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena to set up a second round clash with tournament-favourite Marin Cilic at the inaugural Tata Open Maharashtra, in Pune.

Coming into the season-opening ATP 250 tournament with some memorable wins in 2017, the 148th ranked Ramkumar prevailed 7-6(4), 6-2 over Carballes Baena, ranked 106th in the world.

The 23-year-old Indian youngster looked in control of his game and the match even as he missed a few opportunities to put the Spaniard under pressure early in the contest.

The Indian will now take on world number six Cilic, who had ended a runner-up to Roger Federer at the Wimbledon championships.

While Cilic will be outright favourite in the next match, Ramkumar had a confidence-boosting win over world number eight Dominic Thiem at Antalya Open last season.

The biggest upset of the day was Spanish qualifier Ricardo Ojeda Lara’s win over sixth seed Czech Jiri Vesely.
Lara, ranked as low as 198 shocked the world number 68 with a 6-3 7-6(5) scoreline. He will now clash with the winner of the match between qualifiers Sumit Nagal and Ilya Ivashka.

In the doubles, two Indian pairs were in action and both bowed after winning first set in their respective matches.

Wild card entrants Vishnu Vardhan and N Sriram Balaji lost 6-3 6-7(8) 6-10 to the Canadian-American pair of Adil Shamasdin and Neal Skupski.

Local boy Arjun Kadhe and Paire lost 6-1 5-7 7-10 to second seeds Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop.

Kerber fires as Germany edge past Belgium in Hopman Cup

Angelique Kerber showed plenty of tenacity to beat Belgium's Elise Mertens before teaming up with Alexander Zverev to help Germany get their Hopman Cup campaign off to a winning start at the Perth Arena on Monday.

Kerber put Germany ahead with a hard-fought 7-6(6), 7-6(1) victory over Mertens in the round robin stage of the eight-nation mixed team event.

David Goffin helped Belgium get back into the contest with a clinical 6-3, 6-3 win over world number four Zverev to leave the tie at 1-1. But Kerber and Zverev were too strong for their rivals in the deciding mixed doubles rubber, winning 4-2, 4-3.

Kerber started her singles match slowly, conceded an early break but fought back to claim three games in a row. She saved a set point at 5-6 and then forced a tiebreak which she won with a crisp backhand winner.

The former world number one raced to a 3-1 lead in the second set as Mertens struggled to cut out the errors. Despite saving a match point, Mertens could not match her rival in the tiebreak as Kerber prevailed in two hours.

"It gives me a lot of confidence to start the year like this," said the world number 21. "I think I need a few more matches to really get into my rhythm. However, for a start it was a good job.

"My goal is to play the three matches, hopefully four, and to find a good transition from all the practice to the match court ahead of the first grand slam of the year."

Konta overcomes blip to get past Keys in Brisbane opener

Johanna Konta made a shaky start to the new season before battling past US Open finalist Madison Keys and into the second round of the Brisbane International.

Konta, who prevailed 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, needed two hours and eight minutes to quell the challenge of her American opponent as her usually reliable serve sputtered early on before eventually coming to her rescue at the Pat Rafter Arena.

"This was my first match in quite a while, so I'm really happy to have had such a competitive match against such a great player," Konta said.

"It was a really tough first round for both of us. Madison is an incredibly good player, so I feel very lucky that I got to play her so early on and really have a good match."

World number 19 Keys missed eight opportunities to break Konta's serve before she finally succeeded while up 5-4 to take the first set with a powerful forehand drive.

Konta appeared to calm her serve and nerve in the second set, fighting back with an early break to go up 3-2. The world number nine then held on to level the match at one set apiece.

The Briton battled her way to a 2-0 lead in the decider as Keys began to tire and finished the match with another break to set up a clash with Ajla Tomljanovic in the next round.

Zverev cruises into second round at Brisbane

Mischa Zverev powered past Australian qualifier John-Patrick Smith 6-4, 7-5 to enter the second round of the Brisbane International on Monday.

Eighth seed Zverev fired four aces in the match and converted five out of six break points to come through in an hour and 28 minutes. The German will meet the winner of Tuesday's match between Argentine Federico Delbonis and American Michael Mmoh.

Earlier, local hope Matthew Ebden dumped out Frances Tiafoe with a 6-3, 6-2 victory that set up an all-Australian second round clash with the big-serving Nick Kyrgios.

"Nick has obviously got a great serve," Ebden said, looking ahead to Wednesday's match.

"That's one of his biggest weapons that carried him through well over the past few years, with the upsets and good results that he's had. He's obviously good around the court. He moves well for a big guy.

"Last year I played (Ivo) Karlovic, I played (John) Isner, these kind of guys. So I wouldn't say Nick's serve is maybe as big or as tall as those guys', but he's obviously very accurate and uses it well."

Ryan Harrison downed Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 while fellow American Jared Donaldson eased past Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-4. Horacio Zeballos needed 72 minutes to beat Ernesto Escobedo 6-3, 6-4 and meets Alexandr Dolgopolov next.

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