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Sharapova sees off Sugiyama in her first match

MARIA Sharapova shook off the rust to beat Japan's Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 in the first round of the Bank of West Classic in Stanford, California, on Monday.

Fellow Russian Elena Dementieva joined her in the second round after beating Britain's Anne Keothavong 6-1, 6-4.

On the comeback trail after shoulder surgery last year, three-time grand slam champion Sharapova conceded she needed more matches to get her form back.

"I had so many chances to close out the match and I didn't," the 62nd ranked Sharapova said. "I couldn't raise my level when had to. But in the third set I didn't do anything wrong, I was steady and kept doing the right things."

After winning the first set, Sharapova squandered a 5-2 lead in the second and was unable to cash in on two match points leading 6-4 in the tiebreaker, double faulting and committing a backhand error.

The Japanese player moved ahead with a scalding backhand winner and then took the tiebreaker 8-6 after Sharapova dumped a backhand into the net.

However, the former world No. 1 turned it around in the third set with huge groundstrokes and aggressive returns to put the game away against her 34-year-old opponent.

Dementieva said she was still adjusting to jetlag, but was pleased with her play. The world No. 4 is setting her sights on a US Open title run.

"I hope it's going to be a long summer," Dementieva said.

"I need to play some good matches to get my confidence for New York."

In other first-round matches, seventh-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland beat Romania's Sorana Cirstea, 6-0, 6-1; and Monica Niculescu of Romania beat America's Meghann Shaughnessy, 6-1, 6-0.

Elsewhere, Jesse Levine beat fellow American Bobby Reynolds 6-2, 6-3 in the opening round of the Los Angeles Tennis Open.

Levine won for the sixth time in nine matches, and will face top-seeded Tommy Haas in the second round on Wednesday.

"I felt I played well," Levine said. "My first-serve percentage was pretty high and I was hitting the ball really good."

In other first round matches, Australian Chris Guccione beat Kevin Kim of the United States, 6-1, 6-4, and Robert Kendrick overwhelmed fellow American Vince Spadea, 6-0, 6-0.


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