Wimbledon 2013: Maria Sharapova keeps focus on tennis, not Serena

LONDON — Maria Sharapova reached up and flicked an over-the-shoulder backhand volley for a winner to wrap up a close-as-can-be first set.

About an hour later, she just as easily swatted away questions from reporters hungry for more juice in her feud with Serena Williams.

“I’ve said everything that I wanted to say about the issue,” the third-seeded Russian said Monday after a 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over Kristina Mladenovic of France. “Wimbledon started. This is my work. This is my job. I’d really appreciate it if we move on.”

Indeed, it was time for tennis after a week of buildup that included the news-making back-and-forth between Sharapova and Williams, stemming from comments Williams made in a Rolling Stone magazine interview.

In the story, the reporter describes Williams making critical comments during a conversation with her sister about “a top-five player who is now in love.” The reporter surmised Williams was talking about Sharapova.

On Saturday, Sharapova responded, saying “If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids.”

Williams came back Sunday and, as part of a blanket apology for the trouble the magazine story caused, said she had also apologized in person to Sharapova and wanted to move on.

Asked if she had, in fact, received that apology, Sharpova responded: “Yeah, as I just said, I’d really like to move on.”

Opening her stay at the All England Club on Centre Court, the 2004 champion got off to a slow start.

The tiebreaker was jittery, but with the score tied at 5, Sharapova came up with a backhand crosscourt winner, followed by the backhand overhead volley to close out the set. Sharapova broke in the fourth game of the second set and served it out from there.

It was a tricky test for the first round of a Grand Slam, against 37th-ranked Mladenovic, who came in with a 73-15 career record on grass.

“I’m really happy with the way I came out and played my first match,” Sharapova said. ” The first ones are always pretty tough, especially on the grass.”

She insisted she had no problem setting aside the dust-up with Williams to focus on tennis.

“I treat this as my job because it is my job, because this is what I work for,” she said. “When I go out on the court, this is where all the work goes in. Why would I be thinking about anything else?”

Williams, who beat Sharapova in the French Open final earlier this month, opens defense of her title Tuesday against Mandy Minella.

Meanwhile, second-seeded Victoria Azarenka, who went through the lead-up to Wimbledon practically unnoticed, was among those also asked about the tiff between Sharapova and Williams.

She said, not surprisingly, she didn’t want to get involved.

“My personal life is my personal life,” Azarenka said. “I don’t like to comment on anybody else’s personal life because it’s their own business, and I’m minding my own business. We are here to play a tournament.”


SEE ALSO: Wimbledon 2013: Rafael Nadal stunned by Steve Darcis in first round


 

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