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Updated: January 14, 2013 12:33 AM | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic cruise at Australian Open



Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic cruise at Australian Open

Maria Sharapova finished her first match of the year in 55 minutes Monday, cruising to a 6-0, 6-0 win over Olga Puchkova to start proceedings on centre court at the Australian Open without showing any signs of trouble with her sore right collarbone.

The No. 2-ranked Sharapova, who lost the final to Victoria Azarenka here last year before going on to win the French Open, faced only two break points in the match and she saved both of those in the first game. Then she went on a 12-game roll that earned her a second "double bagel" inside a year.

Sharapova started her run to the French Open title with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Alexandra Caduntu at Roland Garros last year. But she said the scoreline wasn't really relevant.

"If you win 7-6 in the third, you've still won the match," she said. "I don't really think time matters and the scorelines."

Djokovic begins title defence

in the men's singles, Novak Djokovic got his title defence off to worry-free start after breaking Paul-Henri Mathieu's serve in the opening game and going on to beat the veteran Frenchman 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 at Rod Laver Arena.

Djokovic, who broke Mathieu's serve at 5-5 in the deciding set, is attempting to be the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles. He won in 2011 and '12 to go with his title here in 2008, which was also the first of his five majors.

With Rafael Nadal not playing due to a virus, Djokovic's major threats at Melbourne Park are expected to come from No. 2 Roger Federer or No. 3 Andy Murray.

Federer and Murray are in the other half of the draw.

Sharapova withdrew from the Brisbane International earlier this month with an injured right collarbone, saying she wanted to concentrate on being fit for the season's first major. She skipped the tournament last year, as well, before going on to reach the Australian Open final.

Against Puchkova, she said, "I didn't want to focus on the fact I hadn't played a lot of matches."

Venus strong

Sharapova has a potential third-round match against Venus Williams, who needed just an hour for her opening 6-1, 6-0 win over Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan.

Williams played with power and determination and took command of the match early with a steady stream of winners and powerful serves.

She skipped last year's Australian Open due to illness and was warmly welcomed with applause as she entered the court. Venus Williams had the biggest jump of any of the top players in 2012, moving from outside the top 100 to finish the year at No. 24.

The announcer told the crowd as Williams, who has won seven major titles, was warming up on court: "She's back and fiery."

Her younger sister, Serena, was sitting in the crowd with coach Patrick Mouratoglou. Serena is the hot favourite to the win the Australian Open, heading into the tournament with 35 wins from her last 36 matches including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open. No. 3-ranked Serena Williams is in the top half of the draw with defending champion Victoria Azarenka, and the pair won't start until Tuesday.

China's Li Na is already into the second round after beating Sesil Karatantcheva 6-1, 6-3.

Sixth-seeded Li, who reached the Australian Open final and won the French Open in 2011, broke her Kazakh opponent four times and hit 21 winners to just six for Karatantcheva.

Novak Djokovic starts his bid to be the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles later Monday with a first-round match against Paul-Henri Mathieu of France.

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