June 25, 2013

Maria Sharapova back to work at Wimbledon

LONDON — Maria Sharapova reached up and flicked an over-the-shoulder backhand volley for a winner to wrap up a close-as-can-be first set.

About an hour later, she just as easily swatted away questions from reporters hungry for more juice in her feud with Serena Williams.

‘‘I've said everything that I wanted to say about the issue,’’ the third-seeded Sharapova said Monday after a 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 victory over Kristina Mladenovic. ‘‘Wimbledon started. This is my work. This is my job. I'd really appreciate it if we move on.’’

Indeed, it was time for tennis after a week of buildup that included the back-and-forth between Sharapova and Williams, stemming from comments Williams made in a Rolling Stone magazine interview.

Don't tell Serena....but here's a nice pic of Maria Sharapova enjoying a kick-about
Williams came back Sunday and, as part of a blanket apology for the trouble the story caused, said she had also apologized in person to Sharapova and wanted to move on.

Asked if she had, in fact, received that apology, Sharapova responded: ‘‘Yeah, as I just said, I'd really like to move on.’’

Opening her stay at the All England Club on Centre Court, the 2004 champion got off to a slow start. The tiebreaker was jittery, but with the score tied at 5, Sharapova came up with a backhand crosscourt winner, followed by the backhand overhead volley to close out the set. Sharapova broke in the fourth game of the second set and served it out from there.

Williams, who beat Sharapova in the French Open final earlier this month, opens defense of her title Tuesday against Mandy Minella.

Azarenka ailing

When Victoria Azarenka’s right knee gave way, she slid to the slippery turf and began sobbing. The No. 2 seed closed out her 6-1, 6-2 victory over Maria Joao Koehler after tumbling near the baseline and injuring her right knee in the second game of the second set.

After a visit from the trainer that lasted about 10 minutes, Azarenka played the rest of the match with a heavy wrap on her right knee. She was limping noticeably and winced after several points.

But Koehler, making her Wimbledon debut, did not have the power or consistency to make Azarenka pay for her diminished mobility. Azarenka won the match easily despite struggling with her serve, finishing with nine double-faults.

Americans struggle

Sloane Stephens took only 62 minutes to brush aside fellow American Jamie Hampton, 6-3, 6-3, then renewed one of her favorite traditions — a trip to a nearby Indian restaurant for dinner. ‘‘We need to speed this up,’’ Stephens said in her postmatch interview. ‘‘Normally I get the chicken tikka masala, but the last two nights I've got the chicken korma.’’ Stephens was a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing day for the American women. Seven of them lost their first-round matches. The only two to advance — Stephens and Christina McHale — were pitted against other Americans . . . Playing in her first grass court tournament as a professional, Monica Puig produced the first upset by defeating the fifth-seeded Sara Errani, 6-3, 6-2. Puig, 19, made her Grand Slam debut this year at the French Open, where she became the first woman from Puerto Rico to reach the third round. Errani, who had reached the semifinals or better at three of the last five Grand Slams, withdrew from last week’s warm-up at Eastbourne with a leg injury.

Hewitt shows form

An Aussie fan dressed in yellow and green rushed down to where Lleyton Hewitt was signing autographs and handed his cap to the former Wimbledon champion. Hewitt grabbed the hat, placed it backward on his head, and kept walking down the line. Yes, for at least one day, this felt like old times — the 2002 champion taking what he wanted at the All England Club and getting nothing but cheers in return. Hewitt, 32, defeated 11th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, for his first win in a Grand Slam this year. Hewitt, ranked 70th, says he’s feeling good again after radical fusion surgery on his left big toe that several doctors said would end his career . . . Defending champion Roger Federer started his quest for an eighth Wimbledon title with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-0, win over Victor Hanescu in 68 minutes.

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