Kerber advances to Brisbane quarterfinals; Venus gets going
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova were playing in tournaments on opposite sides of Australia, their form veering in opposite directions.
The second-ranked Sharapova opened her 2015 season by winning nine straight games in a 6-0, 6-1 win over Yaroslava Shvedova on Tuesday in the second round of the Brisbane International. The Russian had a bye in the first round at the season-opening WTA event in the sub-tropical east coast city, where Serena Williams won the title in 2014 but skipped this year in favor of the Hopman Cup in Perth, Western Australia state.
A day after joking about the ''miracle coffee'' she needed to perk her up during her opening match at the Hopman Cup, top-ranked Williams slumped to a 6-2, 6-1 loss to Eugenie Bouchard of Canada. The Canadians clinched the Group A match against the United States when Vasek Pospisil beat John Isner 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the men's singles.
Williams asked for and was served a coffee after losing her first set of the tournament 6-0 to Flavia Pennetta on Monday, and credited the espresso with her rapid return to form and comfortable win that set the U.S. on course for a 3-0 victory over Italy. There was no such comeback against Bouchard in a match that lasted only 50 minutes.
''Maybe she needed another coffee,'' said Bouchard, who had never previously beaten Williams. ''I know she didn't play her best. I'm happy I just stayed with it and held my nerve. It's a good way to start the year - gives me some confidence.''
Williams, who arrived in Perth in Saturday, again appeared lethargic and later complained of fatigue.
''It's weird. I can't get my body to move. I feel like I've got no energy,'' Williams said. ''It's a little frustrating because I know I can play 2,000 times better.
''I've just got to get my feet moving. I have to figure it out.''
The Czech Republic beat Italy 3-0 in the other match.
Sharapova needed little more than an hour to oust Shvedova, a qualifier from Kazakhstan. Sharapova wrapped up the first set in 23 minutes and led 3-0 in the second before Shvedova held serve, raising her arm in mock triumph. Shvedova had a break-point opportunity in the next game, but couldn't put away an overhead and Sharapova responded with a backhand winner down the line.
''It certainly felt good to start, after not playing a match for a couple of months,'' said Sharapova, who is into the quarterfinals in her first competitive tournament since the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore in October. ''I wanted to start off sharp and try to do the right things ... and I think I did a good job of that.
''There were moments where I saved a few important break points, which was crucial. That gave me good confidence.''
Third-seeded Angelique Kerber advanced earlier Tuesday with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Daria Gavrilova. Varvara Lepchenko progressed with a 6-4, 6-4 win over fellow American Madison Keys.
In a men's first-round upsets, Lukasz Kubot of Poland beat fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6 (3), 6-4 and Sam Groth beat defending champion Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-2 in a night match. Seventh-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine advanced over Carlos Berlocq of Argentina 6-2, 6-3.
At the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, third-seeded Venus Williams made short work of her first match of the new year by sweeping past Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-0 in 52 minutes.
The seven-time major winner reached the final of the Auckland hard-court tournament last year.
''I was welcomed when I came on the court and I felt like I left off right from last year,'' Williams said. ''I felt comfortable right away.''
Top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki had to work hard to subdue qualifier Julia Glushko of Israel 6-3, 6-2.
Urzula Radwanska beat former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 7-5 and another qualifier, Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic, toppled fifth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4.