Sharapova shrugs off criticism of women's game

Maria Sharapova may have dropped just two games in cruising into the third round of the Australian Open, but the Russian today denied that indicated a lack of depth in the women’s game.

Maria Sharapova may have dropped just two games in cruising into the third round of the Australian Open, but the Russian today denied that indicated a lack of depth in the women’s game.

Sharapova, seeded fourth in Melbourne, thrashed Jamie Hampton 6-0 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena, duplicating her emphatic first-round victory over Gisela Dulko.

The clash with Hampton was closer than the scoreline suggests, though, and Sharapova was irritated by suggestions there were too few serious challenges in the early rounds of grand slam events.

She said: “You never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes we come out and we play three-set matches from the beginning and then it’s a question of ’You’re top five in the world, why is someone challenging you to three sets from the beginning?’

“I think it’s just an excuse to make another story. That’s really what it all comes down to.

“My goal is to go into a match and play my game. If I do it well enough and come out winning 6-0, 6-1, then I’ve done a good job.”

Adding to her three grand slam crowns remains a priority in 2012, but Sharapova also admitted doing well at this summer’s London Olympics, where the tennis event will be staged at Wimbledon, was a major goal.

She added: “This year is a big year for me because I’ll be playing in the Olympics, which has been a dream of mine since I was a young girl.

“Growing up in Russia, tennis wasn’t a big sport back then. It was all about being an Olympian, especially the winter sports.

“Fortunately we’ve been able to change that a little bit and tennis has become extremely popular back in Russia.

“This year to have a long grass-court season will be fun.”

Thirteen-time grand slam champion Serena Williams was pushed a little harder today, especially in the second set, before progressing courtesy of a 6-0 6-4 defeat of Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

It was the 30-year-old’s 500th career victory – a milestone of which she was justifiably proud.

She said: “It’s great. It’s the ultimate. It’s really, really cool. 500 is a lot of matches to play, let alone to win.

“The target is just to keep going. I never even thought about 500 till I got to Australia and realised after Brisbane I was at 498. I knew I was going to get to 500 sooner or later.

“Now I don’t know what the next milestone is.”

Williams’ scheduled fourth-round opponent is Vera Zvonareva and the seventh seed moved a step closer to that clash with a 6-1 7-6 (7/3) victory over Lucie Hradecka.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova hit back from a break down in the deciding set to edge out Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.

Second seed Kvitova won the opener but then looked in real trouble when Suarez Navarro cruised through the second and established a 2-0 lead in the third.

The Czech battled level, however, before completing a 6-2 2-6 6-4 victory in one hour and 47 minutes.

“It was okay at the beginning but then I made many, many mistakes,” Kvitova said.

“I can improve for sure. It was very tough to get back in the third set.”

Kaia Kanepi, the 25th seed from Estonia, is out after losing 6-2 7-5 to Ekaterina Makarova, but former world number one Ana Ivanovic progressed thanks to a 6-2 6-3 win over Michaella Krajicek.

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