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Friday, August 12, 2005

JP Morgan Chase Open

Russian top seed Maria Sharapova shook off the rust of five weeks away from the court to overcome a frustrated Maria Kirilenko 7-6 6-2 in the second round of the JP Morgan Chase Open on Tuesday.

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Playing her first tour match since losing to Venus Williams in the semifinals at Wimbledon, an erratic Maria Sharapova mixed pinpoint accuracy on her booming groundstroke with a string of errors forced by her speedy and creative compatriot. “There was a lot of rustiness,” said the world number two, who had received a bye into the second round. “First matches are always tough. You work in practice but then go out and competing is totally different. You just have to go out there and shake it all off.”

By adeptly mixing her backhand and playing short angles, the 50th-ranked Kirilenko frustrated her off-court friend, but Maria continued her assault on the corners and the strategy eventually paid off after a few nervy moments. Maria needed seven set points to close out the first, wasting four opportunities in the 12th game and three more in the tiebreaker. Kirilenko was flustered by three questionable calls in the tiebreaker, including consecutive decisions that gave Maria Sharapova a 4-3 lead.
“It was the worst umpiring I’ve had in my life,” Kirilenko said. “They (the line judges) made three mistakes and the chair umpire did nothing, he just sat in the chair and had nothing to say.” Maria went on to take the tiebreaker 9-7 when she blasted a crosscourt forehand too deep for Kirilenko to return. Looking more like a player on the brink of becoming world number one for the first time, Maria Sharapova was far more efficient in the second set and once Kirilenko received treatment for an elbow strain in the third game, the result was never in doubt.

“I knew she would give it all she had because a lot of players ranked where she is have nothing to lose when they play me,” Maria said.

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