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Sharapova vs Dart Australian Open live streaming, preview and tips - Former champion Sharapova battling thigh injury heading into first round

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 12 Jan 2019
  • Maria Sharapova vs Harriet Dart is live from Melbourne Park at 11.00am local time on Monday (12.00am GMT)
  • First meeting between the pair
Maria Sharapova (Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Former champion Maria Sharapova starts her Australian Open campaign on Monday when she takes on British qualifier Harriet Dart in the opening round.

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Handed the honour of launching the 2019 Australian Open inside Rod Laver Arena on Monday, can 2008 champion Maria Sharapova recover from a thigh injury to overcome 22-year-old qualifier Harriet Dart of Great Britain on Monday?

The Australian Open has been Sharapova’s most successful slam in terms of reaching the final, with the Russian doing so on four occasions, including in 2008 when she beat top seed Justine Henin, third seed Jelena Jankovic and fourth seed Ana Ivanovic to win the title, while she was also a runner-up in 2007 (lost to Serena), 2012 (lost to Azarenka) and 2015 (lost to Serena again). Also a three-time semi-finalist and a quarter-finalist in 2016 - the tournament where she was ultimately caught doping and subsequently handed a 15-month suspension - Sharapova’s last visit to Melbourne Park in 2018 resulted in a straight sets loss in the third round to Angelique Kerber after a second round triumph over 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Injury problems continued to plague Sharapova throughout the course of last season - she didn’t win another match on hardcourts until Montreal in August, although she did put together a strong clay season, reaching the quarter-finals of Madrid and the French Open, along with the semi-finals of Rome, beating the likes of Karolina Pliskova, Jelena Ostapenko and Ashleigh Barty. However, the 31-year-old couldn’t build on that promising run of form on the dirt, suffering a shock opening round loss on the grass of Wimbledon to qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko, while she would only play two more tournaments for the season, making the third round in Montreal and the fourth round at the U.S. Open, beating Ostapenko again before losing to Carla Suarez Navarro.

Unable to defend her Tianjin Open title in October - the only title she’s won since returning from her doping ban - Sharapova finished the year at No. 30 in the world. Unfortunately, Sharapova’s 2019 began with more injury woes as she retired in the quarter-finals of the Shenzhen Open against Aryna Sabalenka with a left thigh injury. Heading straight to Melbourne to rest and recover, will Sharapova be close to full flight when she takes to Rod Laver Arena for her first match on Monday?

Harriet Dart (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Harriet Dart is the player looking to take advantage of a potentially rusty Sharapova first up in Melbourne. The 22-year-old successfully qualified for the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time last week, defeating Chloe Paquet, Xu Shilin and Ivana Jorovic, winning her last match from a set down to prevail 1-6 6-3 6-1 to secure her spot in her first Australian Open and just her second major overall after she was handed a wildcard into Wimbledon last year, ultimately pushing former World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova all the way before succumbing in three sets.

Forced to deal with a variety of injury and illness problems during the early stages of her career - including a hip issue in 2015, a knee injury in 2016 and a bout of pneumonia in 2017 - Dart proved that when healthy she is more than capable of playing top 100 tennis and beyond, rising over 200 places in the rankings in 2018, moving up from outside the top 300 to a current mark of No. 133. Dart picked up the $25k ITF title in Altenkirchen in February and finished runner-up in Yokohama in her next tournament to make some initial inroads, but her form picked up significantly on the grass at home in the UK when she made the semi-finals of the $100k event in Surbiton and the quarter-finals in Manchester and Ilkley, along with making the second round of the WTA event in Eastbourne and troubling Pliskova at Wimbledon, taking the second set before going down 6-7(2) 6-1 1-6.

Dart would go on to qualify for the WTA event in Washington D.C., and although she struggled a bit towards the end of the year, losing in the first round of U.S. Open qualifying and failing to win back-to-back matches at her next five tournaments, she ended 2018 on a high when she captured the $25k ITF crown in Oslo, Norway.

Unsurprisingly, this will be the first meeting between the pair. Dart is certainly moving in the right direction and is improving her game with every tournament she plays, but is she ready to take out a five-time major champion and World No. 1? Sharapova is obviously the favourite, but the outcome of this match might hinge on her fitness and how well she’s recovered from her thigh injury. If the Russian is moving well and is 100 per cent fit, it would be a big shock if she lost this one - even if she’s not the dominant force she once was.


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Sharapova vs Dart Australian Open live streaming, preview and tips - Former champion Sharapova battling thigh injury heading into first round

Former champion Maria Sharapova starts her Australian Open campaign on Monday when she takes on British qualifier Harriet Dart in the opening round.

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