Sharapova makes confident start on grass

Last updated at 15:33 13 June 2007

Maria Sharapova breezed into Birmingham and quickly found her feet in her first match of the year on grass.

The 20-year-old world number two took just over an hour to see off American qualifier Lilia Osterloh in the second round of the DFS Classic, the grasscourt tournament she is using to hone her bid for a second Wimbledon title.

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A 6-4 6-0 victory provided the 2004 and 2005 Birmingham champion with a useful workout and set up a third-round meeting with 16-year-old Tamira Paszek, from Austria.

Earlier, world number three Jelena Jankovic, fresh from her semi-final appearance in the French Open, also made a confident start to her preparations for Wimbledon with a 6-4 6-1 defeat of Bulgarian teenager Tsvetana Pironkova.

As if by command, the rain clouds above Edgbaston parted in time for the grand

entrance of the tournament's big two, who had sat out the first two dull days.

And the sun shone on Sharapova, the most photographed female athlete whose

mint-green top and frilly white skirt added a dash of colour to centre court.

She experienced hiccups at the start and finish of the first set but was in

full flow by the time she disposed of an opponent 118 places below her in the

world rankings.

Osterloh held her first service game to love and then squandered three break

points after Sharapova twice double-faulted.

Osterloh was always likely to pay the price for a failure to make the most of

such gilt-edged chances and her next break points did not come until the 10th

game when Sharapova did just enough to serve out for the first set.

The psychological damage was done and there was no way back for the American

once she was broken to love in the opening game of the second set.

That gave Sharapova all the confidence she needed to produce her full array of

immaculate groundstrokes, without ever needing to test the decibel counter.

There was the occasional shriek as the Russian strove for extra power but

generally it was all sweetness and light as Sharapova delighted the bank of

photographers and her loyal Birmingham fans.

Sharapova expressed her satisfaction after overcoming a potentially tricky

first hurdle but admitted she had been slow to make the transition from clay to


"I started playing clay-court tennis," she said. "It was kind of interesting to find myself three break points down. It's

different practising to playing a match.

"I needed to adapt as soon as possible but, once I got my first (big) hit, it

was all right. You can't expect to be hitting winners right, left and centre

straight away."

Paszek, who lost 7-5 6-1 to champion Justine Henin in the second round of the

French Open, beat 13th seed Meilen Tu 6-2 7-6 to earn a meeting with Sharapova.

Seventh seed Ai Sugiyama became the first big casualty of the tournament when

she lost 6-4 1-6 6-2 to fellow Japanese player Ayumi Morita, a qualifier ranked

200th in the world.

Eighth seed Mara Santangelo, of Italy, and sixth seed Alona Bondarenko, of

Ukraine, both came through their first matches, although Santangelo dropped a

set against India's Sania Mirza.

The third-round line-up was completed when fifth seed Marion Bartoli, of

France, ended the hopes of the lone British survivor Naomi Cavaday.

Bartoli took just 68 minutes to gain a 6-3 6-1 win over the 18-year-old from

Kent, who had created one of the surprises of the first round with her

straight-sets win over Vasilisa Bardina.

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