Kerber sets up Sharapova clash of the champions

Clyde Nash
January 18, 2018

Sharapova barely missed a beat in her first match at the Australian Open since a failed doping test in 2016 resulted in a 15-month ban from tennis.

A 15-month doping ban after testing positive for meldonium - dating back to the 2016 Australian Open - forced the five-time major victor to skip last year's tournament.

Former world number one Angelique Kerber celebrated her 30th birthday on Thursday with an emphatic 6-4 6-1 win over Donna Vekic at the Australian Open to set up an intriguing third round clash of former champions with Maria Sharapova.

She celebrated by twirling, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd. "But it felt pretty routine today and I'm just really happy to be back".

Her ranking slid into the 20s in 2017, but she's coming back into the kind of form which makes her a title contender. I saw that you've portrayed me as someone who is very greedy, asks for more money and wants to boycott. "Something is going on with Australia and me".

Novak Djokovic enjoyed a dream return as he hammered Donald Young 6-1 6-2 6-4.

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Six-time champion Djokovic advanced to the second round for the 12th consecutive year, beating American 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

Djokovic lost in the second round here a year ago, but won five of the previous six Australian Open titles. "There's no better place for me to start than here in Australia", he said.

Wawrinka, who had six months out after surgery on his left knee, beat Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (2).

Milos Raonic's struggles continued after the 2016 Wimbledon finalist was beaten in four sets by Lukas Lacko.

No. 13 Sam Querrey restored some order for the USA men with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Feliciano Lopez. Two other USA contenders, No. 8 Jack Sock and No. 16 John Isner, were among the first-round casualties Monday.

The ninth seed will now square off with Tennys Sandgren of America in the second round.

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Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe were all eliminated on Monday.

Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva earned a hard-fought 7-5 7-6 (6) victory over Heather Watson, meaning Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund are the only British hopes left to claim the Melbourne Park title.

German Andrea Petkovic won the final three games to beat two-time Wimbledon victor Petra Kvitova 6-3 4-6 10-8 in a thrilling first-round encounter, which lasted two hours and 52 minutes.

The four-set loss to Yuichi Sugita, 6-1, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3, was disappointing after he reached the ATP Finals for the first time previous year.

But it was no doubt a reaffirming afternoon for one of tennis's true champions, who was still debating whether he was healthy enough to play in this major tournament when the new year began and he had not played a genuine match since last July at Wimbledon.

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