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Sharapova cruises into third round with straight-sets victory

by Jim Armstrong

The Associated Press

Maria Sharapova easily beat Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-0, 6-1 Tuesday in the second round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

The former top-ranked Russian, who has been struggling since returning from a 10-month injury layoff, will next face Alisa Kleybanova, who defeated sixth-seeded Vera Zvonareva 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

“This is the first time I’ve really had to make adjustments in my game,” said Sharapova, referring to her injury layoff. “After coming back from a long period (away from the game) you have to adjust to the speed, reaction time, stuff that usually comes natural to you.”

Sharapova won her first tournament as a professional at the Japan Open in 2003 and also won in Tokyo in 2005. With more seeded players losing Tuesday, including third-seeded Elena Dementieva, she is positioned well for another shot at a title.

“The more rounds you play, the tougher it gets,” Sharapova said. “You’ve got to take it one match at a time and not think too far down the road.”

Dementieva became the latest highly ranked player to lose in the second round, falling to Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1.

Top-ranked and defending champion Dinara Safina lost to Taiwanese qualifier Chang Kai-chen, and second-seeded Venus Williams lost to Russian qualifier Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Monday. Fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, trailing 5-0, was forced to retire with a viral infection in the first set of her match against Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada, and fifth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova also lost Monday.

“I don’t know about the other players but I feel like I didn’t have enough time to recover after the U.S. Open,” Dementieva said. “It’s hard to get ready for such a big event like this and I just wish we had more time.”

Bondarenko broke Dementieva four times in the final set, including the last game when the Russian double-faulted on match point.

“There was nothing wrong with my serve,” said Dementieva, who won in Tokyo in 2006. “I was serving good today.”

After saving off three match points in the second set and winning the tiebreaker, Dementieva looked set to pull even with Bondarenko at 2-2 in the third set but Bondarenko’s shot was called in.

Dementieva protested the call but the score remained 2-1 and Bondarenko held to go up 3-1.

“I was trying to fight back all match,” Dementieva said. “I tried to make a break at 2-all and there was a bad call. I’m really surprised there is no challenge system for a tournament this big.”

Bondarenko will next play Li Na of China, who beat Vera Dushevina of Russia 7-5, 6-0.