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Sharapova shuts out first-round foe

MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova finished her first match of the year in 55 minutes, cruising to a 6-0, 6-0 win today over Olga Puchkova to start proceedings on center court at the Australian Open without showing any signs of trouble with her sore right shoulder.

The No. 2-ranked Sharapova, who lost the final to Victoria Azarenka here last year before going on to win the French Open, faced only two break points this morning, and she saved both of those in the first game.

Then she went on a 12-game roll that earned her a second "double bagel" in a year.

Sharapova started her run to the French title at Roland Garros with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Alexandra Caduntu. But she said the score wasn't really relevant.

"If you win 7-6 in the third, you've still won the match," she said.

Sharapova withdrew from the Brisbane International this month with an injured right collarbone, saying she wanted to concentrate on being fit for the season's first major. She skipped that tournament last year, as well, before going on to reach the Australian Open final.

Against Puchkova, she said, "I didn't want to focus on the fact I hadn't played a lot of matches."

Sharapova has a potential third-round match against Venus Williams, who needed just an hour for her opening 6-1, 6-0 win over Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan.

Williams played with power and determination and took command of the match early with a steady stream of winners and powerful serves.

She skipped last year's Australian Open due to illness. Williams had the biggest jump of any of the top players in 2012, moving from outside the top 100 to finish the year at No. 24. Williams said she was happy with the match statistics, particularly her serve (77 percent of first serves won).

"I don't think my opponent quite got the hang of … you know, it's hard to play the first match in a major, first thing of the year, and that can be a lot of pressure,' Williams said. "I did my best to just close it out."

Also, Novak Djokovic started his bid to be the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles with a 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu. He next plays American Ryan Harrison, who knocked out Santiago Giraldo.

No. 9 seed Sam Stosur, an Australian residing in Tampa, made the second round with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 victory over Chang Kai-chen to end a run of five losses on home soil. No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 6 Li Na also advanced in straight sets.

No. 3-ranked Serena Williams is in the top half of the draw with Azarenka, and the pair won't start until Tuesday.

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Key results

Men Novak Djokovic (1) d. Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 6-4, 7-5; Nicolas Almagro (10) d. Steve Johnson 7-5,

6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-7 (6-8), 6-2

Women Maria Sharapova (2) d. Olga Puchkova 6-0, 6-0; Agnieszka Radwanska (4) d. Bojana Bobusic 7-5, 6-0; Li Na (6) d. Sesil Karatantcheva 6-1, 6-3; Sam Stosur (9) d. Chang Kai-chen 7-6 (7-3), 6-3; Venus Williams (25) d. Galina Voskoboeva 6-1, 6-0

Today on TV: 7 p.m., Tennis Channel; 9 p.m., ESPN2

Sharapova shuts out first-round foe 01/13/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 12:30am]

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