Sharapova cruises, Kerber crashes out

WEATHER DELAYS::Several women’s singles matches were rescheduled due to rain in Montreal, while men’s play was suspended for two-and-a-half hours in Toronto

AFP, MONTREAL and TORONTO

Fri, Aug 10, 2018 - Page 16

Maria Sharapova on Wednesday fired 25 winners past hapless Russian compatriot Daria Kasatkina in a 6-0, 6-2 Rogers Cup victory in rainy Montreal, but Angelique Kerber’s first match since capturing the Wimbledon title ended in a sobering defeat.

Sharapova needed just 66 minutes to see off 12th-seeded Kasatkina in an impressive and timely display of big hitting, with the US Open getting under way in just less than three weeks.

“I came on court having a lot of respect for my opponent, because she’s up and coming, but has already established herself,” 31-year-old Sharapova said. “I knew I had a tough match ahead of me. I was focused from the beginning and I finished it that way.”

Kasatkina, 21, managed just three winners.

Play was suspended before the start of Wednesday’s night matches because of rain, resulting in four contests being added to yesterday’s schedule.

World No. 1 Simona Halep was yesterday scheduled to play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second match on Court Central, followed by second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki in her second-round match against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Venus Williams also had her second match of the tournament rescheduled for yesterday. She beat world No. 124 Caroline Dolehide in the first round, but was to have a tougher test against veteran Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

Sharapova next faces French sixth seed Caroline Garcia for a place in the quarter-finals.

Sharapova, a five-time major winner, leads the head-to-head against Garcia 4-1, but the French player in April won their only meeting in the past three years on clay in Stuttgart, Germany.

World No. 4 Kerber, playing for the first time since defeating Serena Williams in last month’s Wimbledon final, slumped to a 6-4, 6-1 loss to Alize Cornet of France.

The German left-hander committed 32 unforced errors against 34th-ranked Cornet in her 85-minute second-round exit.

Cornet, 28, goes on to face Ashleigh Barty of Australia in the third round. It was her second successive victory against Kerber, having also triumphed on hard courts in Beijing last year.

“It was my first match after three weeks now,” Kerber said. “It’s not always so easy to change the surface. I think I need a little bit more time to get used to hard courts again.”

Barty, the Australian 15th seed, defeated Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck 7-6 (9/7), 6-2, while recently married Czech ninth seed Karolina Pliskova suffered a 6-2, 6-2 defeat at the hands of Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.

Fifth seed and defending champion Elina Svitolina went through to the third round after Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu was forced to retire with an ankle injury.

Svitolina was leading 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 4-3 when Buzarnescu turned her ankle and was forced to leave the court in a wheelchair and in floods of tears.

“Very tough to see players getting injured that badly on court. I wish @MikiBuzarnescu a veryyyy speedy recovery! Stay strong,” Svitolina said on Twitter.

US Open champion and third seed Sloane Stephens also made the third round by seeing off home hope Francoise Abanda 6-0, 6-2.

In the doubles, Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and China’s Yang Zhaoxuan defeated Canada’s Francoise Abanda and Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-4, 6-4 in the first round, while second-seeded Latisha Chan and Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova took just more than an hour to beat Japanese duo Miyu Kato and Makoto Ninomiya 6-1, 6-3 in the second round.

In the men’s singles, top seed Rafael Nadal blew past patchy Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-3 to begin his quest for a fourth Canadian trophy in Toronto.

The world No. 1 was untouchable as he schooled Paire for the fourth time without a loss, taking 74 minutes as he broke six times.

Nadal won the event in 2005, 2008 and 2013.

“I was not at my 100 percent today,” Nadal said. “It’s true that I did good work here the last five days, but at the same time it’s true that I didn’t work very hard at home.”

“So the first match is an important victory for me, for my confidence. It’s important that I have another match tomorrow too. So just try to keep going,” he said.

“I played a solid match, in the second set I had some troubles, but my return worked well. It was more about the mistakes from the baseline,” he added.

The 32-year-old will fight for a quarter-final berth for the first time since 2015 when he plays Stan Wawrinka, who staged another fightback in three sets, beating Marton Fucsovics 1-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (12/10).

Defending champion Alexander Zverev, seeded second and the winner in Washington last weekend, also advanced easily by beating Bradley Klahn 6-4, 6-4.

Former top-ranked Novak Djokovic, a four-time champion, sent Canadian Peter Polansky to a 6-3, 6-4 defeat.

Two generations of local players split the difference with 27-year-old Milos Raonic heading out while teenage gun Denis Shapovalov moved on.

American Frances Tiafoe beat Raonic 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-1 in a match hit by a weather interruption of more than two-and-a-half hours.

Teenage prodigy Shapovalov eliminated Italian 14th seed Fabio Fognini 6-3, 7-5.

Djokovic expressed support for a new 25-second shot clock innovation designed to cut down on time wasted between points.

“I’m pretty comfortable with it — it’s good to have shot clock in the tournaments prior to the US Open,” Djokovic said.

The 13-time Grand Slam champion has now won 21 of his past 24 matches after a roller-coaster start to this year that saw him go 6-6.

Djokovic, the winner of 30 career Masters titles, is next to face rising Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat seventh seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 7-6 (8/6).

It was the second straight opening defeat for the Austrian, who also lost last week at home.

Wimbledon semi-finalist John Isner defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 7-6 (7/3), 6-2.

Third seed Juan Martin del Potro was forced to withdraw prior to his opening match due to a left wrist injury.

Additional reporting by staff writer