Brisbane PHOTOS: Brady battles past Sharapova, Stephens & Vekic knocked out

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First-round action continued at the Brisbane International on Tuesday. The day was marked by the upsets of Sloane Stephens and Donna Vekic by qualifiers and Maria Sharapova’s return to competition.

Eighth seed Madison Keys opened the season with a solid 6-3 6-2 victory over Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova, getting 70% of first serves in and winning 81% of points behind her first serve.

Sloane Stephens was knocked out in the first round 6-4 2-6 6-3, falling to Russian world No.129 Liudmila Samsonova, who had progressed past Kaylah McPhee, Kristina Mladenovic and Marta Kostyuk to make the main draw. Another successful qualifier on Tuesday was Yulia Putintseva, who recorded a tight 6-3 3-6 7-5 win over Donna Vekic.

Third seed Naomi Osaka has extended her winning streak to 12 matches, coming back from 0-2 in the decider to beat new Adidas representative Maria Sakkari 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3. The Japanese fired 16 aces and was broken only once during the first-round match.

Converting her third match point, sixth seed Kiki Bertens eliminated Dayana Yastremska in three sets, 6-4 1-6 6-3. Petra Kvitova reeled off 12 of the last 13 games to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 6-1 6-0.

The 2015 Brisbane champion Maria Sharapova was playing her first match since August 2019 and fell to American qualifier Jennifer Brady, 3-6 6-1 7-6(3), who was broken just once in their encounter and won 74% of both first and second serves. Brady hit four winners less than Sharapova (27 to 31), but made 24 less unforced errors (15 to 39). Brady’s next opponent will be Australian world No.1 Ashleigh Barty. The 147th-ranked Sharapova now waits to see whether she’ll be awarded an Australian Open main-draw wildcard.

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