Maria Sharapova confident after destroying first round opponent at Wimbledon

Maria Sharapova spent only 54 minutes beating her first round opponent. Now Maria Sharapova sounds optimistic about an extended stay at Wimbledon.

By , AP

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    Maria Sharapova of Russia serves the ball during her first round match of women's singles against her compatriot Anastasia Pivovarova in the 2010 Wimbledon Championships in London, Britain, June 22, 2010
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The time Maria Sharapova spent away from her job made her enjoy it more.

She's back at Wimbledon, healthy again and hoping to display the grass-court flair that helped her win the title in 2004 as a precocious 17-year-old.

Sharapova started strong Tuesday, beating fellow Russian Anastasia Pivovarova 6-1, 6-0 in 54 minutes.

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It has been awhile since Sharapova made a run at Wimbledon. Two years ago, she lost in the second round to Alla Kudryavtseva, a Russian ranked 154th. Last year, following a 10-month layoff because of a shoulder injury, she lost in the second round to Gisela Dulko.

Now, she's sounding optimistic about an extended stay.

"My body feels good," she said. "I'm in much better match condition than I was last year."

She's 18-5 in 2010 with two tournament titles. And she's having fun.

"My joy in the game is pretty up there with what it was before I got injured," she said. "Maybe even more so, because it was taken away from me for such a long period of time that it made me realize how blessed you are when you're actually on the court, are able to hit a tennis ball for an hour a day, and be good at what you do."

The former No. 1 dropped out of the top 100 during her layoff. She is now 17th, still low enough that she becomes a dangerous floater in the draw, and she could face defending champion Serena Williams in the fourth round.

Sharapova's right shoulder, which required surgery in October 2008, bothers her only on occasion.

"If it's like really, really cold, like almost snowing," she said.

Wimbledon's weather can be bad, but there's no snow in the forecast. Nonetheless, Sharapova will give herself time to get loose.

"When I was younger, a few years ago, if I wouldn't play for a few days, I would come out, the third, fourth serve I could hit pretty much as hard as I can," she said. "Now it's like 10, 15, 20 serves by the time it warms up. It's just those little things."

The 6-foot-2 Russian's serve seemed fine in her opening match. She won 17 of 18 points on her first serve, which reached 115 mph, and never faced a break point.

Granted, it wasn't much of a test. Pivovarova lost in qualifying, made the main draw only because another player pulled out and was making her grass-court debut.

"I was expecting to play someone else," Sharapova said. "Kind of last minute was playing against her. So I think the goal was to come out and just try to figure things out pretty quickly. And I did a good job of that."

Sharapova hasn't defeated a top 10 player this year, but she said she has rebuilt her game to where she can beat anyone. It's merely a question of rising to the occasion — which the three-time Grand Slam champion has done in the past.

"I don't think anyone's going to make 50 backhands or 50 forehands in a row," Sharapova said. "Everyone's going to make mistakes. But it's about your game plan, and how you execute."

Others limiting their mistakes in first-round victories included both top-ranked players, Williams and Rafael Nadal.

Williams used an overpowering serve to beat 17-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-0, 6-4. Nadal won in his first match since becoming the 2008 champion, beating Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

Nadal missed Wimbledon last year because of knee tendinitis.

"I'm enjoying a lot to be back in my favorite tournament," he said.

Neither French Open women's finalist survived round one. Roland Garros runner-up Samantha Stosur, ranked a career-high sixth, lost to qualifier Kaia Kanepi 6-4, 6-4. Surprise French Open winner Francesca Schiavone was beaten Monday.

Aside from Stosur, the only seeded woman to lose was No. 25 Lucie Safarova. Four seeded men were eliminated: No. 8 Fernando Verdasco, No. 14 Juan Carlos Ferrero, No. 19 Nicolas Almagro and No. 24 Marcos Baghdatis.

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