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Maria All Business in Birmingham

Maria Sharapova's campaign for a third AEGON Classic title was launched without a hitch.

Published June 08, 2009 10:49

Maria All Business in Birmingham
Maria Sharapova

BIRMINGHAM, UK - It was always going to be a mixed day for the local contingent given that several British players were drawn against each other, but as expected Maria Sharapova ruled supreme on the opening day of the $220,000 AEGON Classic at the Edgbaston Priory Club.

Two-time Birmingham champion Sharapova raced to a 4-1 lead at the start of her match against Stéphanie Dubois, only to see the 22-year-old Canadian surge to within a point of 4-4. Sharapova fought off that break opportunity and pocketed the first set, but was broken in the first game of the second before reeling off six of the next seven games to win, 64 62. 

"I thought I did a really good job of getting into the groove of playing on grass again," said the Russian, whose run to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros lifted her ranking from outside the Top 100 to No.73. "I have tremendous memories from here. It seems that the fans have grown up with me here as I have played here since I was younger. That's one of the reasons why I keep coming back."

Next up for Sharapova is American Alexa Glatch, who upset Fed Cup teammate Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the No.9 seed, 76(2) 63. The only other seed to fall on the opening day's play was No.10 seed Maria Kirilenko, who was dispatched by 2007 junior Wimbledon champion Urszula Radwanska.

With the Top 8 seeds enjoying byes, the other seeds in action on Monday all advanced in straight sets. Twelfth seed Tamarine Tanasugarn beat Julie Coin; No.13 seed Magdalena Rybarikova beat Akgul Amanmuradova and No.14 seed Roberta Vinci ousted Severine Brémond.

Elsewhere, Britain's wildcards went 2-2. Katie O'Brien fell in three sets to direct entrant Melanie South, who next faces top seed Zheng Jie, while Elena Baltacha beat fellow wildcard Georgie StoopNaomi Cavaday, ranked 297th in the world, beat Julie Ditty of the US, ranked 177 places higher, 62 76(2).

"It got a bit nervy at the end of the second set," said Cavaday. "Even though I didn't serve out the match on my first chance, I didn't panic as I knew that I normally play well in tie-breaks. "I closed it out and that's the main thing and I'm absolutely thrilled."

British No.1 Anne Keothavong, the No.11 seed, plays her first round match against Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden on Tuesday.

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