Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams remain on course for third round showdown

Report from Melbourne

Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams remained on course for a third-round shoot-out at the Australian Open after registering emphatic wins today.

In an opening session free of shocks, Sharapova and Williams were the first women to advance after dropping just a solitary game between them in seeing off Olga Puchkova and Galina Voskoboeva respectively.

Sharapova came into the tournament under a fitness cloud after damaging a collarbone just before Christmas while Williams arrived in Melbourne having won her last event - in Luxembourg in October, her first singles title in almost three years - after a long battle with injury and illness.

Their brief court appearances allowed little time for in-depth evaluation but both were happy with their performances.

Sharapova, who 'double-bageled' Russian countrywoman Puchkova, said: "After a couple of close games I started to concentrate a bit better.

"I didn't want to focus on the fact I hadn't played a lot of matches but just focus on what was ahead of me and really be aggressive.

"Today was a good scoreline."

Although she didn't drop a game, Sharapova insisted there was still room for improvement.

"It's tough to feel completely satisfied," she said.

"You always want to improve on things and work on certain things that you feel will help you in the later rounds towards the end of the second week.

"But overall I was happy with the way I started considering I didn't play any matches coming in."

Williams was pleased to have negotiated the first hurdle with the minimum of fuss.

The American said: "It's nice to spend less time on court and not be in long sets.

"A win is a win no matter what it is, but it's nice when it's more routine."

There were also wins today for in-form fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, sixth seed Li Na and home favourite Sam Stosur.

Radwanska, the winner of the warm-up events in Auckland and Sydney, looked in danger of dropping her first set of 2013 when Australian wild card Bojana Bobusic served for the opener at 5-4 but the Pole upped her level and rattled off the next nine games to go through 7-5 6-0.

Li, the runner-up here in 2011, eased past Kazakhstan's Sesil Karatantcheva 6-1 6-3 but Stosur was made to work harder by Chang Kai-Chen of Chinese Taipei.

Ninth seed Stosur has only managed to reach the fourth round of her home grand slam and had her nervy moments once again before securing a 7-6 (7/3) 6-3 triumph.

PA

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