Kirilenko Upsets Sharapova
Published January 18, 2010 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - The upset bug bit for the first time in the very first match of the Australian Open on Monday, as Maria Kirilenko surprised good friend and No.14 seed Maria Sharapova, 76(4) 36 64.
Sharapova went into the match a strong favorite, out-ranking her opponent by 44 spots and winning in both of their completed matches (although the head-to-head stood at 2-1 because of an injury loss). And she broke early.
But Kirilenko kept steady and began moving Sharapova around, drawing errors - by the end of the match 77 of them - from an increasingly erratic Sharapova. Buoyed by some previous glory moments at the Australian Open - including a Top 10 win over Anna Chakvetadze en route to her only Grand Slam second week here in 2008 - the classy Russian ground out the three-hour, 22-minute victory. Highlights: Kirilenko vs. Sharapova
"It's one of the best wins for me," Kirilenko said. "Maria plays so aggressively and her shots are so hard, so I had to be aggressive myself and concentrate on every point. When I had match point I just tried not to think about it."
After the win, Kirilenko put her finger to her lips in a silencing motion - she explained the unique celebration in her post-match press.
"I got so many questions in the locker room and player lounge about that, 'What does that mean?'" Kirilenko said. "For me, it means that everything is calm. Because it's a great win but it's only the first round I've passed. It's nothing big."
"I just didn't win the match. Bottom line," Sharapova said. "I had my chances, I just didn't execute. When she was up and I'd get back in there, I just didn't take advantage of that. I let her control the situation again. I'm disappointed.
"Just a bad day. But a bad day's not going to stop me from doing what I love. I'm still gonna go back on the court, work hard and perform. I'll be back here on a Saturday of the second week, so you'll watch."
The three Top 8 seeds who got their matches in on a rain-filled day - No.2 seed Dinara Safina, No.3 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and No.5 seed Elena Dementieva - all won in straight sets. Safina is playing her first Grand Slam since big brother Marat Safin retired from the ATP World Tour: "It's weird. But on the other hand, it had to happen, so somehow I was prepared. I knew it wasn't going to be forever. And I still get the same support, so it's good."
Also winning through were the two Belgians, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin. Clijsters, seeded No.14, beat Valérie Tétreault, 60 64; Henin, still unranked and a wildcard, beat Kirsten Flipkens, 64 63, to set up a second round clash with Dementieva. Check out Henin and Dementieva's head-to-head here.
"It's going to be a tough challenge because she's a very experienced player," Dementieva said on Henin. "I saw her final against Kim in Brisbane. It was an incredible match. They were both playing very well, so it was very impressive."
"She's No.5 in the world," Henin said. "It's going to be a great challenge for me that early. It's a tough draw, but in a Grand Slam every match is difficult. I love playing the top players. I'm not negative about that draw, I take in a positive way, and that's going to push me to become a better player."