SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: Former champion Maria Sharapova gave hapless Harriet Dart a 6-0 6-0 shellacking to fly into the second round of the Australian Open on Monday and had no words of comfort to offer the British qualifier after leaving her in tears.
In the opening match on Rod Laver Arena, the 30th seeded Russian was all over the 131st-ranked Dart from the first point and wrapped up the match in little more than an hour after a ruthless barrage of power hitting.
The centre court humiliation had Dart weeping as she beat a hasty exit and Sharapova had little sympathy for the 22-year-old after her nightmare debut at Melbourne Park.
“I mean, there is no time for that, I’m sorry to say,” the 2008 winner told reporters.
“But when you’re playing the first round of a Grand Slam — I have been in many positions, last year Wimbledon I came out against a qualifier that played really well.
“You know, there is no doubt that my level wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but she was there to take the match.
“So I’m not so much worried about my opponent, but I have to step up when the time is right and when I need to, so that’s my main goal.”
Dart, who made her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon as a wildcard, briefly fired up the subdued terraces by grabbing a break point off Sharapova at 4-0 in the first set but blew the chance with an unforced error, one of 21 for the match.
She saved two match points in the final game but fell on the third with a clumsy volley that flew wide and neatly summarised her day.
“Tried some things — didn’t work,” the misty-eyed Briton told reporters, barely able to raise her voice above a whisper.
“She doesn’t really give you anything… It’s just unfortunate I didn’t get on the board.”
Dart was right about Sharapova not giving up many free points. The five-times Grand Slam champion landed 35 of her 36 returns, while blasting 20 winners in the rout.
Sharapova, who last tasted Grand Slam success at the 2014 French Open, had no taping on her limbs and moved well less than two weeks after being forced to retire with a thigh injury during her quarter-final clash at the Shenzhen Open.
The tall 31-year-old said she was still troubled by an injury to her right shoulder which forced her to cut her season short after the U.S. Open.
“That’s a good question,” she said, when asked whether her right arm could ever be fixed.
“I have asked Dr. Altchek that many times. I saw him beginning of December, and he says it’s a day-by-day pain management situation.”