Henin-Hardenne, Sharapova, Petrova win in Madrid
MADRID, Spain -- Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo lost to Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-2 Tuesday in opening round-robin play at the WTA Championships, and U.S. Open champion Maria Sharapova beat Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-4.
Third-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne defeated Martina Hingis 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-1.
Mauresmo entered the tournament ranked No. 1. For her to end the year with the top ranking, the Frenchwoman needs to successfully defend her title, Henin-Hardenne must finish last in their group and No. 2 Sharapova must miss the final.
"There's nothing to say about that match except it couldn't be worse in the next couple of matches," said Mauresmo, who played her first match since injuring her right shoulder last month. "It's hard to say anything positive about a match like that. I speak better Spanish than I played today."
The 19-year-old Sharapova can finish the year No. 1 if she wins this week and Henin-Hardenne fails to reach the final. Sharapova, who won the championships two years ago, is bidding for her sixth title of the year.
Mauresmo withdrew from the Zurich Open because of the shoulder injury.
"There was no pain in my shoulder -- I just feel a little behind the play and I made stupid mistakes," Mauresmo said. "It's the kind of match I would play after missing competitions."
The fifth-ranked Petrova broke in the third game of the first set. Mauresmo challenged to save one set point in the eighth, but a forehand passing shot by the Russian sealed it on her second attempt.
Mauresmo broke Petrova in the seventh game of the second set after the Russian had triple-match point. But the Frenchwoman dropped serve the next game for the fifth time and lost the match.
"Petrova didn't have a great game," Mauresmo said. "She had a good game, a smart game, and that's what's frustrating."
Sharapova capitalized on her opponent's 15 double-faults in a match between Russians.
Sharapova won the first set in 27 minutes. Neither player managed to hold convincingly in the second set, with Dementieva saving match point by breaking Sharapova for a third consecutive game.
Dementieva's serve then let her down again. Sharapova broke for the seventh time in the next game to seal her ninth successive win.
Henin-Hardenne will knock Mauresmo out of the race for No. 1 with another win.
"This is a very important tournament for me and I'm just happy to be playing," Henin-Hardenne said. "The first one is done. There's another one in two days and I'm just going to focus on my next match against Petrova."
The French Open champion dominated Hingis with her backhand in taking the first set.
Serving at 5-2 in the second set, Henin-Hardenne allowed Hingis to rally by committing 25 unforced errors.
Henin-Hardenne shook off the poor set and broke Hingis three times in the third set on her way to winning the match -- her first since tearing a muscle in her right knee in the doubles of the Fed Cup final against Italy in September.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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