MELBOURNE (AFP) – Second seed Maria Sharapova powered into the Australian Open second round Monday as fifth ranked Ana Ivanovic crashed out in a day of upsets in the season-opening Grand Slam.
A total of eight women’s seeds were eliminated on the first day of action at Melbourne Park, with former world number one Ivanovic the highest profile casualty.
Ivanovic, seeded five, was bundled out in a humiliating 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 loss to Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka, with third seed Simona Halep forced to dig deep to avoid a similar fate.
Angelique Kerber (seeded nine), Lucie Safarova (16), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (23) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (27) were also among the day-one departures, while Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard (7) and Ekaterina Makarova (10) negotiated their way through.
Sharapova, who can regain the coveted number one ranking from arch-rival Serena Williams if she wins a second title at Melbourne Park, said she was aware of the carnage before she faced Petra Martic of Croatia.
“There were quite a few upsets today. Of course I was very well aware of that… I certainly didn’t want to be one of them,” she said.
The five-time Grand Slam champion need not have worried, crushing Martic 6-4, 6-1 to make it a 24th birthday to forget for the Croat.
“I made a few too many unforced errors but overall I’m glad I got through,” said Sharapova, who showed signs of the sizzling form that won her the French Open last year and the Brisbane International warm-up tournament earlier this month.
There was only despair for her opponent in the Brisbane final Ivanovic, whose fine form ahead of the Open deserted her.
The Serb, who won her only major at the French Open in 2008, was hoping to re-establish her Grand Slam credentials at the Australian Open, where she enjoys huge popularity among the home fans.
“It’s really disappointing. It’s probably the worst thing could happen,” she said, admitting she felt “lost” on centre court as world number 142 Hradecka recovered from a woeful start to outclass a player 137 places above her.