AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCENE: Sharapova’s poker face
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Some players cheer themselves on after great shots or vent frustration at the bad ones. Not Maria Sharapova.
The No. 2-ranked Sharapova keeps a poker face, which was on display Friday as she cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 win over Zarina Diyas in the third round. The match lasted a mere 61 minutes.
Afterwards, on-court interviewer Rennae Stubbs, a retired Australian player, joked that she wanted Sharapova on her poker team.
”That would be a terrible decision, Rennae, because I’m terrible at poker,” Sharapova laughed.
”The only thing I’ve ever played was blackjack. And I’m terrible at that, too,” she added.
The five-time Grand Slam winner faces China’s Peng Shuai on Sunday in the fourth round. The No. 21-ranked player from China plays with two hands on both forehand and backhand, yielding flat, deep shots.
”She’s a bit of an untraditional player with two hands on both sides. That’s a little tricky,” Sharapova said. ”Yeah, I look forward to a good match-up.”
By Jocelyn Gecker — http://twitter.com/jgecker
BATTLING THE GREEKS: Was it a third-round men’s singles match at the Australian Open or a football match between Greece and Bulgaria?
With the amount of noise coming from Court 3, where Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov played Greek-Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, it was hard to tell.
Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open finalist, has long drawn vocal support from Melbourne’s large Greek community over the years, and his fans were out in force Friday, chanting, serenading and clapping vigorously for him in between every point.
Dimitrov’s fans, clad in the green, white and red colors of Bulgaria’s flag, were drowned out at times, but their man didn’t need as much help. No. 10-seeded Dimitrov rallied from a set down to beat an inspired Baghdatis 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
”Marcos has always been a favorite guy out here,” Dimitrov said. ”I like it when the atmosphere is like that. Actually fills me up with positive thoughts. At the same time, it’s nice to prove (the crowd) wrong.”
The 29-year-old Baghdatis was once ranked as high as No. 8 in the world, but he’s drawn more attention for his racket-smashing tantrums than his play in recent years. His ranking has slipped to No. 78.
After feeling ”lost” for several years, he’s enjoying tennis again and is aiming to return to the top 50 again.
”Somehow in my career, I stopped improving,” he said. ”I think I’m not so far, but it will take some time. I don’t expect myself tomorrow to start winning Masters series.”
By Justin Bergman — https://twitter.com/justinb3rg
Australian Open Scene follows tennis’ Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne as seen by journalists from The Associated Press. It will be updated throughout the day.