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August 5, 2009

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Sharapova off to a flying start in LA

MARIA Sharapova took another tentative step in her comeback by beating Jarmila Groth of Australia, 6-0, 6-4 in 63 minutes on Monday night at the Los Angeles Women's Tennis Championships.

Sharapova, who is making a return after a right shoulder surgery, breezed through the opening set in 20 minutes and lost just 9 points. In the second set, however, she struggled with her rebuilt serve, double-faulting twice to lose serve in the third game and falling behind, 3-1.

She regrouped by breaking Slovakian-born Groth, made it 3-all and closed the match with her fifth break of Groth's serve.

"Her game plan was to attack from every single angle she could," said Sharapova, who lost in the quarterfinals of the Bank of the West Classic last week to Venus Williams.

"But she wasn't able to do that consistently because I was able to retrieve and make her hit more balls."

Flavia Pennetta of Italy, last year's runner-up and the No. 10 seed, beat Varvara Lepchenko of the United States 6-2, 5-7, 6-0.

However, it wasn't a good day for the other seeded players. Anna Chakvetadze of Russia beat No. 11 Virginie Razzano of France 7-6 (5), 6-3; Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic ousted No. 15 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 7-6 (4); and qualifier Jill Craybas of the US upset No. 16 Francesca Schiavone of Italy 7-6 (7), 6-2.

Sharapova will face third seed Victoria Azarenka in the second round.

"She's always had a great amount of potential and she's certainly arrived," said Sharapova. "I love the challenges of playing some of the best in the world."


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