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Maria Sharapova cruises through to the second round at Wimbledon


Tournament favourite Maria Sharapova kicked off her Wimbledon bid with a win as she overcame Anastasia Rodionova on Centre Court this afternoon.

The 2004 champion and current French Open holder took the match 6-2 6-3 but only after having to readjust following a break-neck start to proceedings.

She won the first five games in the blink of an eye, dropping just three points in the process, before her Australian opponent finally found her rhythm.

That resulted in a scrappy, truncated section of the match - one game featured eight deuces - and Sharapova needed to stand firm at times as Rodionova started to punish her.

But she saw off her challenge and, when she smashed a winner to break serve in the fourth game of the second set, she had the chance she needed to surge ahead and not look back, setting up a second-round meeting with Tsvetana Pironkova.

It had looked as though she would secure the clash in record time early on as she powered into a five-game lead.

She won the first to love - a forehand winner on the second point the highlight - before claiming a break at the first available opportunity, albeit through her opponent's double fault.

The early procession continued into the third game, with Sharapova again holding to love - three of Rodionova's shots going long - and when she broke to love in the fourth game with a smash volley and a cross-court backhand winner, it was not unfair to wonder if the Australian would win another point.

She did, though, grinding her way back in at 5-2 before Sharapova gratefully took the set.

The start to the second set was not as easy for Sharapova, just getting over the line on serve in the first game and then losing the second to 15 as Rodionova started to find some rhythm.

Her serve in particular had improved, with Sharapova being dragged across court to make her returns, but a clinical third game on her own serve helped her regain her early form and she broke in the next, taking the first of two available points with a smash.

Serve then took hold, much to Rodionova's dismay, and Sharapova held out to progress.