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Sharapova stunts Groth at LA Championships

MARIA Sharapova got off to a flying start at the LA Championships yesterday, beating Slovakia's Jarmila Groth 6-0 6-4 in the first round despite losing her way at times in a competitive second set.

Sharapova was joined in the second round by 10th seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy, a 6-2 5-7 6-0 victor over American Varvara Lepchenko, while Russian Anna Chakvetadze upset 11th seed Virginie Razzano of France 7-6 6-3.

Still working to strengthen her serve following shoulder surgery last year, three-times Grand Slam champion Sharapova was at times inconsistent in the second set, but more lethal off the ground.

"Her game plan was to attack from every single angle she could," said Sharapova, who lost in the quarter-finals of the Stanford 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."

After the aggressive Slovakian broke Sharapova to 3-2 in the second set, the Russian pushed on again to break back at 3-3 when Groth erred on a forehand and then fought off three break points to hold to 4-3.

Sharapova then went on to win the match, breaking Groth to love to win the match with a vicious forehand return down the line.

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."

Czech Lucie Safarova took down 15th seed Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3 7-6 and American Jill Craybas took down 16th seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy 7-6 6-2.

France's Marion Bartoli, who beat Venus to win the Stanford title on Sunday, pulled out of the tournament with a calf injury.


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