NEW YORK // After missing last year's US Open with a shoulder injury, the former champion Maria Sharapova returned to Flushing Meadows with an impressive 6-3, 6-0 victory over Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria. Several hours after her Russian compatriot Dinara Safina went perilously close to becoming the first No 1-seeded woman to lose in the first round of the Open, the 2006 champion Sharapova gave a much stronger performance.
The three-time grand slam champion produced 29 winners - 23 more than her 98th-ranked opponent. Sharapova showed no signs of the shoulder tear that forced her to have surgery in October and kept her off the tour for nearly 10 months. "This is a grand slam. You've got to get going from the first match," Sharapova said. "After being gone, this is what it's all about." The former No 1 Ana Ivanovic, now seeded 11th, was bundled out in the first round by the 52nd-ranked Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 2-6, 6-3, 7-6. The Serbian player had the worst showing ever by a top-seeded woman in New York last year when she exited in the second round. Ivanovic went even worse this time.
"It hurts. I can tell you that," Ivanovic said. "I'm sure I will have sleepless nights." At least the 2008 French Open champion had a big support group in the stands, cheering for her wildly. Safina, by contrast, would look up at her coach for positive body language, and instead, he would cover his eyes with his hands or turn his head with a wince. Nearly undone by 11 double-faults and 48 total unforced errors, Safina was a point away from a 4-0 deficit in the third set before coming back to beat Olivia Rogowska of Australia 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.