Sharapova, Venus set up big clash

Published: Thursday | January 17, 2013 Comments 0
Venus Williams of the US hits a return to France's Alize Cornet in their second-round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday. - AP
Venus Williams of the US hits a return to France's Alize Cornet in their second-round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday. - AP

 MELBOURNE, Australia (AP):

Novak Djokovic was all but perfect in his second-round match yesterday against Ryan Harrison, beating the 20-year-old American 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 to stay on track for his third consecutive Australian Open title and the fourth of his career.

Maria Sharapova was even more convincing a few hours earlier, winning 6-0, 6-0 for the second time in two matches to set up a third-round encounter with Venus Williams.

Williams beat Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-3 in the match preceding the Djokovic-Harrison encounter at Rod Laver Arena, which will be the likely venue for her big matchup tomorrow against Sharapova.

Reigning French Open champion Sharapova holds a 4-3 edge in career meetings, but Williams has won both of their meetings at Grand Slams - at Wimbledon in 2005 and 2007.

Venus' sister Serena, playing in the other half of the draw, had the day off yesterday and was able to rest the right ankle she injured in her first-round match. She's set to play Garbine Muguruza today as she pursues her own sequence of three. She won Wimbledon and the US Open last year and is aiming for a third major in a row.

Djokovic, a loser in the US Open final last year to Andy Murray, was relentless in beating the over-matched Harrison, winning the first set in just 20 minutes and the match in 1 1/2 hours while making just 16 unforced errors.

"I tried to focus from the start," Djokovic said. "Obviously, I knew he had nothing to lose, he's going to come out and hit big serves. Pity for him, I don't think he played his best."

SHARAPOVA MAKES HISTORY

Sharapova sure did, particularly for someone who has precious little match "toughness" heading into the Australian Open. The second-seeded Russian beat Japan's Misaki Doi by the double-bagel score in just 47 minutes, her second consecutive match at Melbourne Park in which her opponent failed to win a game. Doi won only 15 points.

Sharapova, last year's Australian Open runner-up, pulled out of the Brisbane International with a right collarbone injury two weeks ago and had not played a competitive match this year until her 6-0, 6-0 win over fellow Russian Olga Puchkova in the first round on Monday.

She is the first woman to post consecutive 6-0, 6-0 scorelines at a Grand Slam tournament since Wendy Turnbull at the Australian Open in 1985.

"I've been playing really aggressive and doing the right things," Sharapova said. "It's not easy to be up so much because you can have a few let-downs. You just have to try to concentrate. My job is to make it as easy as possible."

Venus Williams took advantage of the French player's double-fault to end the first set.

"Tennis ... is about winning when it's not your best day," said the 25th-seeded Williams. Next up, "I'm playing against Maria. I'm going to have to be at my best against her."

The final match of yesterday's session on the centre court was disappointing, though not wholly unexpected, for the home crowd and Australia's top-ranked female player.

Ninth-seeded Samantha Stosur, who has spoken of her anxiety over playing in front of her home fans, served twice for the match but double-faulted on match point in a 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 loss to China's Zheng Jie.

"It was a bit of a choke," Stosur admitted. "Obviously, it's a hard one to take when you get yourself into a winning position and you lose five games straight."


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