THE QUALITY of Heather Watson’s first-round performance was underlined by Maria Sharapova’s crushing victory over Anastasiya Yakimova, of Belarus, at the US Open. Two days after Watson had gone within six points of beating Sharapova, who needed more than two and a half hours to beat the 19-year-old from Guernsey, the Russian took just 70 minutes to beat Yakimova, the world No 84, 6-1, 6-1.
“I think I improved my intensity a lot,” Sharapova said afterwards. “I was moving a lot better, just hitting a lot freer. I was a little bit impatient in the beginning, but overall I did many things much better than the previous round. I really had to. I didn’t play my best tennis, but I gave myself a chance to play another match and improve.”
She added: “I played a pretty tricky opponent tonight who didn’t play the typical kind of tennis. She sliced a lot, a lot of high balls. Maybe the first couple of games I was a little bit impatient, then I got really steady. I was aggressive. Still felt like I could have moved in a little bit more, but overall I played solid and much better.”
Despite the speed of her victory, Sharapova did not finish her match until after midnight. The first contest of the evening session, in which Andy Roddick beat Michael Russell in four sets, took more than three hours.
Sharapova said it was the first time she could recall playing the second match of the evening programme here. She was not complaining but said the late start had interrupted her normal routine. “At 10.30 I’m under the covers, at 11.00 I’m out,” she said. “I don’t think I’d watch anything at midnight.”
She added: “When you’re in the moment, when you start the match, I’m not thinking what time it is or I want to get off the court as soon as I can. When you’re out there, it’s just about doing whatever you can to win.”
As for the behaviour of the spectators, who can get boisterous during late-night sessions in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Sharapova said with a smile: “I think at midnight they have an excuse. I mean, they’re watching women’s tennis at midnight.”
Sharapova next plays Flavia Pennetta, who beat her fellow Italian Romina Oprandi 6-0, 6-3. Pennetta, the world No 25, has reached the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows here twice in the last three years. She lost to Dinara Safina in 2008 and to Serena Williams the following year.
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