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Wimbledon Monday: Maria's Tricky Start

Maria Sharapova takes on former junior Wimbledon runner-up Kristina Mladenovic in the first round on Monday afternoon.

Published June 23, 2013 12:00

Wimbledon Monday: Maria's Tricky Start
Maria Sharapova

LONDON, England - First round action gets underway at the All-England Club on Monday, with several mouthwatering matches, including the 2004 champion and two of the draw's most dangerous of floaters.

Monday, First Round

Centre Court
[3] Maria Sharapova (RUS #3) vs. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA #37)
Head-to-head:
first meeting
Remarkably, it is now nine years since Maria Sharapova burst into the big time, winning Wimbledon amidst a blur of fist pumps and ferocious groundstrokes. Despite turning 26 earlier this year, the Russian is now part of the WTA's old guard and on Monday she opens her title bid against one of the next generation's most exciting talents.

Like Sharapova, Mladenovic is tall, blonde and has a game ideally suited to the All-England Club's perfectly manicured lawns. This year has seen the Frenchwoman excel in doubles as well as singles and her well-rounded game could cause Sharapova a few problems as she finds her feet on the grass.

Court 18
[5] Sara Errani (ITA #5) vs. Monica Puig (PUR #65)
Head-to-head:
first meeting
Monica Puig certainly talks a good game, and her recent exploits on tour have proved that this is anything but empty rhetoric. After ending last year with back-to-back titles on the ITF Circuit, the first six months of the new campaign have seen Puig consolidate, posting 27 wins, reaching her first WTA quarterfinal and approaching a Top 50 debut.

While she has come close, Puig is yet to notch a win against a member of the Top 10, though. The latest opportunity to tick this off her to-do list comes against recent French Open semifinalist Sara Errani. The match will be Puig's first in the main draw at Wimbledon, and although experience and ranking dictates that she starts as a heavy underdog, she will be boosted by her own good form, not to mention Errani's so-so 6-5 win-loss record at Wimbledon.

[17] Sloane Stephens (USA # 17) vs. Jamie Hampton (USA #25)
Head-to-head:
series tied 1-1
Prior to the start of this year's grass court season, Jamie Hampton had played just two matches on the surface. But the American has proved to be a fast learner, coming through qualifying to appear in her first career final on Saturday in Eastbourne.

How much her adventure on the south coast has taken out of her will become apparent on Monday as she takes on compatriot Sloane Stephens. An abdominal injury ruled Stephens out of Eastbourne, leaving her light on grass court practice. Last year, Stephens made the third round on the All-England Club debut and she will have to be at her best if she is to live up to her seeding this year.

Around the grounds…
No.2 seed Victoria Azarenka kicks off her challenge against Maria Joao Koehler, while other seeds in action include Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic.

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