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Tennis Report From Alix Ramsay • Sharapova Wins In Double Bagels In Melbourne • Rafa Amused At Presser

Rafael Nadal of Spain in action against James Duckworth of Australia during day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 14 January 2019. EPA-EFE/DAVID CROSLING EDITORIAL USE ONLY AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Rafael Nadal of Spain in action against James Duckworth of Australia during day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 14 January 2019. EPA-EFE/DAVID CROSLING

 

 

By Alix Ramsay

 

Be careful what you wish for – that is what everyone always tells you.

 

So when Harriet Dart, one of Britain’s pink and scrubbed young hopes (22 years old and ranked No.131) mused that she would love to play Maria Sharapova in the first round of the Australian Open, the fates clearly thought they would have a bit of fun with her. You could understand her confidence: she had just come through the qualifying competition, she was into the main draw for the first time in Melbourne and everything was looking rosy in her world.

 

“Sharapova has been my idol since I was very little,” she said, happily over the weekend. “I looked up to her growing up. One, she always looked so nice when she was playing, and also the way she holds herself on the court, her presence.

 

“She has been so successful in the game. There are many things why I look up towards her. I was pretty young when she first won Wimbledon. I have always looked up to her, and it will be pretty cool to play her.”

 

Maria Sharapova of Russia in action against Harriet Dart of Britain during their women's singles round one match of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 14 January 2019.  EPA-EFE/MARK DADSWELL  AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Maria Sharapova of Russia in action against Harriet Dart of Britain during their women’s singles round one match of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 14 January 2019. EPA-EFE/MARK DADSWELL

And then she was drawn to play the imperious Ms S and it all went downhill from there. She took a 6-0, 6-0 sploshing in 63 minutes, winning just 29 points. And seven of those points were donated to her in the shape of seven Sharapova double faults. It was brutal. But, then again, that is what separates the winners from the players – a ruthless streak a mile wide.

 

No matter that Shazza’s serving shoulder is held together with hope and sticky tape, the former champion was not going to give an inch. Did Shazz have any sympathy for poor little Harriet who left the court in tears? Don’t be daft.

 

“There is no time for that, I’m sorry to say,” she said in that tone she reserves for the more intellectually challenged of the press corps. “I have been in many positions – last year Wimbledon came out against a qualifier that played really well. 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.”

 

History does not record whether Ms Dart is still as enamoured of Queen Shazz as she was at the start of Monday’s play.

 

The lovely Rafa was in a much cheerier mood than that when he faced the world’s media following his straight sets win over James Duckworth. Yes, his dodgy thigh felt fine, yes the rest of him was in decent nick and, yes, he was very happy to notch up his first win since limping away from the US Open semi-finals back in September.

 

Happily discussing anything and everything, his train of thought was suddenly derailed when he spotted an ageing hack sound asleep at the side of the room. One of the US’s finest was in mid-question when Raf started to giggling and pointing.

 

“I’m not so interesting today,” Raf said, nodding sagely as the hack snoozed on.

 

Only when nudged by Raf’s agent, Benito, did Rip van Winkle splutter into life, burbling about jet lag.

 

“I know, I know: you were just closing your eyes to concentrate on what I am saying,” Raf giggled.

 

And what Raf was saying was that armed with a new serve and given the all-clear from the doctors that his thigh injury is now no more than a memory, he fancies his chances. If our snoring friend can stay awake long enough, he might just see something special from Raf in the next couple of weeks.

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