MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova advanced to the third round of the Australian Open with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich, staying on course for a potential quarterfinal meeting with Serena Williams.

Sharapova was finished in 71 minutes Wednesday on Rod Laver Arena, the first match completed on day three after light rain caused delays on outside courts.

The fifth-seeded Sharapova won the 2008 Australian title and has lost three finals at Melbourne Park, including last year’s decider against Williams.

Sharapova dropped two service games in the first set, including once when serving at 5-1, but was otherwise consistent except for some over-hit ground strokes.

“It’s great to be back on this court after a great run last year. It was an incredible moment to be in the final of this event again,” said Sharapova, who played her first-round match on Margaret Court Arena, one of three covered stadiums at Melbourne Park.

“To come back here and play my first match on Rod Laver is always very special as you always get those first little jitters out of the way.”

Six-time champion Serena Williams later beat Hsieh Su-wei 6-1, 6-2. Her older sister, seven-time major winner Venus Williams, was fined $5,000 on Wednesday for skipping a mandatory news conference following her first-round exit the previous day.

Kateryna Bondarenko earned one of her biggest wins since returning from retirement after having a baby in 2013, beating two-time major winner and No. 23-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 7-5.

The 92nd-ranked Bondarenko is playing only her second Grand Slam tournament since returning to the tour in 2014.

No. 7-seeded Kei Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, advanced to the third round in the men’s draw with a 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over Austin Krajicek of the United States.

IN LATE Tuesday matches, Rafael Nadal lost 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 to Fernando Verdasco and was eliminated in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament for only the second time in a career that has netted him 14 major titles.

Nadal won his only Australian title in 2009 after overcoming Verdasco in a 5-hour, 14-minute semifinal, a match that still ranks among the classics at Melbourne Park.

This time, Verdasco rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the last two sets, and came from a break down in the fifth to win in 4:41 and reach the second round. Nadal’s only previous first-round exit in a Grand Slam was at Wimbledon in 2013, when he lost in straight sets to No. 135-ranked Steve Darcis of Belgium.

“It’s a hard and painful loss,” the fifth-seeded Nadal said. “He was playing amazing in the last set … more aggressive than me. He took more risks than me, and he won. Probably he deserved.”

No. 2 Simona Halep also went out in the first round.

Halep, the 2014 French Open finalist, lost 6-4, 6-3 to Zhang Shuai, giving the No. 133-ranked Chinese qualifier her first win at a Grand Slam after 14 losses.

“It’s OK. I don’t want to make this match like dramatic,” said Halep, who refused to blame an Achilles tendon problem for contributing to her third first-round loss in five years at Melbourne Park.

Verdasco went for everything on his ground strokes, ripping 90 winners against only 37 for Nadal as he worked to the extremes to unsettle his former No. 1-ranked rival.

“To win against Rafa here coming from two sets down is unbelievable,” the No. 45-ranked Verdasco said. “I think I played unbelievable – the fifth set from the break that he made me, I just started hitting winners.

“I don’t know how, just, you know I was closing the eyes and everything was coming in and I keep doing it and I was doing well.”

Stan Wawrinka, who beat Nadal in the 2014 Australian final, and four-time runner-up Andy Murray advanced, along with No. 8 David Ferrer and No. 10 John Isner.