MADRID, Spain - Maria Sharapova continued the impressive form she displayed en route to her 30th WTA title a week ago in Stuttgart in routing Klara Koukalova in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open on Sunday.
After losing her maiden clash with Koukalova at the 2003 Australian Open, Sharapova came into this one having won five straight in their head-to-head. And her triumph in Stuttgart showed once again she is often at her best on clay, as her eight WTA titles on the dirt trails just Anabel Medina Garrigues and Serena Williams among active players. Also, five of her last six titles have come on clay, a surface that she once wasn't comfortable on but that obviously is no longer the case. Though she has never won Madrid, Sharapova had her best outing here last year in reaching the final.
Koukalova is having a standout year, having won her first WTA title since 2005 in Florianopolis. She also was the runner-up in Hobart and Rio de Janeiro. The Czech was looking for her sixth Top 10 win on Sunday. Interestingly enough, her first came over No.7 Monica Seles at the 2003 Australian Open, the same event where she recorded her lone defeat of a then 15-year-old Sharapova.
The Turning Point
Koukalova actually had early leads in each of the first three games, but the eighth-seeded Sharapova ended up winning all three. From there it was smooth sailing, as she got out to a 5-0 lead and was never in trouble the rest of the way en route to a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
By The Numbers
As is often the case for her, Sharapova's return of serve made the difference. She converted on six of eight break point opportunities and won 17 of 22 points on Koukalova's second serve.
"It was a good start for me," Sharapova said. "Obviously the first match at a new event is always challenging because you don't know what to expect, especially coming off the indoor tournament last week. It's always an adjustment to get yourself prepared for the first round. I'm happy that I won in two good sets today."
Sharapova's second round foe will be American Christina McHale, whom she has never dropped a set against in three meetings, including in the second round here last year.