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Maria Sharapova survives seed cull in Australia

As seed after seed in the women's draw fell on the opening day of the Australian Open yesterday, world number two Maria Sharapova was vowing that she would not be one of them.

Eight women's seeds departed on Monday, with world number five Ana Ivanovic the most prominent, before Sharapova restored some order to the rankings with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Petra Martic in the day's final match on Rod Laver Arena.

"There were quite a few upsets today and of course I was very well aware of that," Sharapova said after her victory that ruined Martic's 24th birthday. "I certainly didn't want to be one of them."

Sharapova, who had entered the season-opening grand slam having won the Brisbane International title earlier this month, appeared comfortable against Martic but did run hot and cold throughout the first set, taking a 5-2 lead only for the Croatian to battle back to 5-4.

In the second, the five-times grand slam champion faced some staunch resistance and while she took a 5-0 lead, the scoreline did not reflect the closeness of the match.

Sharapova, however, as was evident through much of the match, was able to convert the crucial points when they mattered and sealed it with her sixth ace.

"I played an opponent that's capable of playing very good tennis," Sharapova said of the 184th-ranked Martic. "She's been injured a little bit I believe in the last year or so, but she can play. She's got some big weapons.

"For a first round against someone that's already played a few matches, I knew I had to be really strong from the beginning (because)... you never know what you're going to get.

"You get really inspired opponents that are not seeded in the first round that are either coming from qualifying, and everyone's eager to do well in this type of environment.

"You can't ever underestimate their potential and how they can play. They're going to fight till the very last point."

Fifth seed Ivanovic admitted she was in need of a new approach after becoming the biggest casualty on day one.

Ivanovic looked to be in charge of her match with Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka on Rod Laver Arena when she took the first set 6-1, but won just five more games in a 6-1 3-6 2-6 defeat.

Eugenie Bouchard safely advanced to the second round, but ninth seed Angelique Kerber was one of eight seeds to make an early exit from the bottom half of the draw. Since Wimbledon in 2001, when the number of seeds increased from 16 to 32, the most seeds to lose in the first round of a grand slam is 11.

Ivanovic reached the quarter-finals here last year and came into the event on the back of reaching the final of the recent WTA Tour event in Brisbane.

But the 27-year-old Serbian has now failed to reach a single grand slam semi-final in 27 attempts since winning the French Open in 2008.

"I think the whole match I didn't really feel like myself out there," the former world number one said. "It was really tough for me to find my rhythm.

"It's really disappointing. You know, it's probably the worst thing could happen. But still, the year is young and I really have to now sit and work on a few things and just maybe try to have a different approach to this kind of event and try to see what was lacking."

Kerber was beaten 6-4 0-6 6-1 by Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu, while there were also defeats for Belinda Bencic, former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki.

Third seed Simona Halep lost the first two games of her match with Italy's Karin Knapp but bounced back to win 6-3 6-2, while Bouchard defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-2 6-4.


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