Sharapova outlasts Australian Groth at U.S. Open

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former champion Maria Sharapova dropped the first set but fought back to claim a 4-6 6-3 6-1 first-round victory over big-serving Australian Jarmila Groth at the U.S. Open on Tuesday.

Groth, ranked 60th after reaching the fourth round at this year’s French and Wimbledon championships, hammered 13 winners in the first set as she applied constant hard-hitting pressure on the 23-year-old Russian.

“I think she came out today and really swung and didn’t give me much time to do anything out there,” said 2006 U.S. Open winner Sharapova. “Against a player like that, who kind of plays the one-two punch type of tennis, it’s quite difficult to get a rhythm in the beginning.”

As the match wore on, however, Sharapova extended the rallies and made Groth play more shots, inducing 20 unforced errors over the last two sets with the Australian committing 12 double faults in the same period.

Sharapova, who struggled with her serve the last couple of seasons because of an injured shoulder, committed 21 double faults when she was ousted in the third round at last year’s U.S. Open by unseeded American Melanie Oudin.

The 23-year-old Sharapova landed only 45 percent of her first serves against Groth, but said her second serve was one of the keys to her victory.

“I think my percentage was quite low today, but I think I did a really good job of hitting some great second serves when I needed to,” she said.

“Especially in the third set, I wasn’t getting too many first serves in. But I hurt her from my second serve. I probably could say that that was one of the shots that won me the match today.”

Sharapova next meets Czech Iveta Benesova, who advanced past Nuria Llagostera Vives of Spain.

Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue