If Maria Sharapova has any rust in her game she didn’t let it show Monday morning at the Australian Open — the 2012 runner-up put on a blistering performance in a first-round 6-0 6-0 victory in just 55 minutes over compatriot Olga Puchkova.
There were question marks surrounding Sharapova because she came into the first Slam of the year with a neck injury that forced her out of the Brisbane International two weeks ago and left her without match practice.
But at Rod Laver Arena, the 2008 Open champion rocketed to a first-set lead over Puchkova, ranked No.107, in just 30 minutes.
In her opening service game of the second set, the No.2 seed was challenged for a spell, Puchkova nailing a forehand winner down the line to force deuce. But Sharapova served her way out of that game, and was continuously too consistent for the 25-year-old.
Sharapova, also 25, had been concerned about how consistent she would be on court. But the Siberia native didn’t have to worry when she skipped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, securing her first win since October of last year.
The 2012 French Open champion fired 18 winners in the match to just four from Puchkova.
Sharapova hit six aces in the match and put in 68 per cent of first serves – a healthy statistic for someone with queries about her freshness. She won an astonishing six of eight break points against Puchkova, capitilising on her opportunities.
The Russian finished off the match thanks to a groundstroke long from her opponent, Puchkova’s 16th unforced error of the day to just 11 for Maria.
Sharapova next faces the winner of Misaki Doi and Petra Martic match.