Sharapova Seeks to Bounce Back

KEY BISCAYNE, Florida -- Maria Sharapova expects to show some improvement in her next match, which should be easy. All she has to do is win one game.

Seeded No. 2 in the Nasdaq-100 Open, Sharapova will play her opening match against Eleni Daniilidou, likely on Friday, and she'll try to bounce back from the worst loss of her career. Sharapova lost 6-0, 6-0 to Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open last week. It was an astounding drubbing for the reigning Wimbledon champion, who won just 23 points while committing 25 unforced errors.

"That's just part of our sport. You're not going to be at your best all the time," the 17-year-old Sharapova said Wednesday. "I didn't really find a way to fight out there. Usually, I find a way to get a rhythm in the match, and I wasn't able to do that.

"It was good for me to take a few days off and forget about it."

All seeded players at Key Biscayne received a first-round bye. Daniilidou earned a shot at Sharapova by beating Tathiana Garbin 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Vera Douchevina defeated Emilie Loit 6-3, 6-3 and will next face Serena Williams, who is seeking her fourth consecutive Key Biscayne title. Americans Meghann Shaughnessy and Marissa Irvin also won.

In men's play, Americans James Blake and Robby Ginepri advanced. Blake beat Kenneth Carlsen 6-3, 6-2, and Ginepri swept Filippo Volandri 7-6 (4), 6-1. Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion, beat Brendan Evans 6-2, 6-4.

Fernando Verdasco defeated Peter Wessels 6-4, 7-5 and will next face defending champion Andy Roddick. Iraki Labadze beat Younes El Aynaoui 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 and will play No. 3-seeded Marat Safin in the second round. French teenager Gael Monfils rallied past countryman Michael Llodra 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Sharapova enters the tournament with a 17-2 record this year so far. Her only other loss came in the semifinals of the Australian Open, when she failed to convert three match points against Serena Williams.

"Whether I have three match points or it's 6-0, 6-0, it's a loss," Sharapova said. "I'm not going to win every single match in my career, but losses really motivate me."

She needs to reach the semifinals next week to have a chance at a rematch with Williams. They met for the first time a year ago at Key Biscayne, and Williams beat Sharapova 6-4, 6-3.

"That was a whole year ago," Sharapova said. "I learned a lot, and it definitely helped me."

Less than four months later, Sharapova upset Williams in the Wimbledon final. The Russian won again when they played in the final of the year-ending WTA Championships.

"It has been an amazing year," she said. "Everything has happened so fast. I have been getting letters from people I never thought knew who I was -- like Stella McCartney. It's a bit of a surprise."

McCartney, daughter of Paul McCartney, has sent clothes to Sharapova. There have been many awards for her success, such as the WTA Tour Player of the Year honor Sharapova received at a banquet Tuesday.