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Updated: January 13, 2013 9:42 PM | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams cruise at Australian Open



Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams 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."

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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