- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - The delayed preparation is working well for Maria Sharapova so far at the Australian Open, where she has reached the third round after just two hours on court.

The 2008 Australian Open winner had a 6-0, 6-1 second-round win over U.S. qualifier Jamie Hampton in 64 minutes on Thursday, two days after beating Argentina’s Gisela Dulko by the same margin.

Sharapova did not play in any warmup events and spent nearly two weeks in Melbourne ahead of the season’s first major while she rested an injured left ankle.

There was no indication of any problems with the ankle on Thursday, but the 24-year-old Russian wasn’t really tested by No. 144-ranked Hampton, who has only ever won one match at a Grand Slam.

“It was more about getting my feet going … worrying about myself,” Sharapova said. “Yeah, started my preparations in the offseason a little late, took a bit of extra time in practice instead of rushing into a tournament.”

She’ll meet either Stephanie Dubois of Canada or 30th-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany in the next round.

Seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva, a two-time semifinalist at Melbourne Park, had a 6-1, 7-6 (3) over Lucie Hradecka. No. 21 Ana Ivanovic also advanced, beating Dutch player Michaella Krajicek 6-2, 6-3.

Sharapova is one of three former champions still in contention. Serena Williams was bidding to extend her winning streak to 16 matches at Melbourne Park when she played Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the subsequent match on Rod Laver Arena. Williams won back-to-back titles in 2009 and ‘10 but missed last year’s tournament due to injuries.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters is into the third round on the other half of the draw.

Top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki is aiming for her first major tile, and is one of four women in the draw who can finish the tournament at No. 1.

After her 6-1, 7-6 (4) second-round win over Anna Tatishvili on Wednesday, she asked how her boyfriend might be able to help.

She smiled, paused, then relayed some of the advice Rory McIlroy offered that helped him overcome similar pressure and win a golf major.

“Well, it’s just about you can’t really do anything about the past,” Wozniacki said. “You just need to look forward. You have a tournament now, and you want to do the best you can. That’s it.

“Then if it goes well, it’s great. If not, you have the next one. It’s like tennis.”

McIlroy was considered a major golf talent on the cusp of a breakthrough when he blew a four-stroke lead and lost last year’s Masters. He handled it with such humility that it didn’t surprise anyone when he rebounded to win the U.S. Open two months later, when he was 22.

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