Maria, Kerber back with easy triumphs

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts after a point against Donald Young of the US during their Australian Open match in Melbourne Tuesday. — AFP

"So, third round of the Australian Open, I don't know, I think I deserve to smile out there after that victory".

Sharapova barely missed a beat in her first match in Melbourne since a failed doping test here in 2016 resulted in a 15-month ban from tennis.

Maria Sharapova cruised into the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-1 6-4 win over Tatjana Maria of Germany on Margaret Court Arena.

She celebrated by twirling, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd.

Like Djokovic, Sharapova looked sharp in her return to Melbourne after a year away. I'm very happy with the second serve.

She lost to Sevastova in the fourth round at the U.S. Open last September in her return to Grand Slam tennis.

Her ranking slid into the 20s in 2017, but she's coming back into the kind of form which makes her a title contender. "I want to see whether I am on that level".

Sharapova had no interest in responding to claims it was inappropriate, saying only: "I was invited to be part of the draw by (tournament director) Craig Tiley and the tournament organisation, and I kindly accepted".

"I love playing here". After not having hit a ball on the pro tour since mid-July due to a right elbow, the Serb didn't disappoint by hammering American Donald Young 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Kerber, who won the 2016 Australian Open, won four singles matches at the Hopman Cup, then followed that up with five wins en route to the Sydney International title last week.

"I was waking up this morning, I say, OK the "2" is gone right now", Kerber said, smiling.

Wawrinka, who was six months out after surgery on his left knee, beat Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (2).

Former semifinalist Milos Raonic was the big upset of the day going down to 30-year-old Lukas Lacko 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, ranked 80, piled more misery on the United States, beating 13th seed Sam Querrey, with the American contingent in Melbourne - men and women - decimated in the early rounds. Two other US contenders, No. 8 Jack Sock and No. 16 John Isner, were among the first-round casualties Monday.

Djokovic - seeded an unfamiliar 14th - helped to set the tone with a 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory over America's Young, before denying speculation of a potential Australian Open boycott next year over the distribution of money generated by grand slam events.

Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe were all eliminated on Monday.

Keys, the 17th seed, had a 6-1, 7-5 win over Wang Qiang.

Pera will next play No. 20 Barbora Strycova, who beat Lara Arruabarrena 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic, a six-time Australian Open victor, has not played since Wimbledon previous year but showed little sign of rustiness as he dispatched the American 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

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