Millennium Post

Maria fights off match points to beat Panova

Maria fights off match points to beat Panova
World number two Maria Sharapova fought off two match points with crunching forehands to sneak into the third round of the Australian Open following a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory over qualifier Alexandra Panova on Wednesday.

Sharapova raced through the first set in 26 minutes, winning two service games to love and breaking her Russian compatriot three times, but the 25-year-old Panova clawed her way back.

Panova, whose opening round win over Sorana Cirstea was her first in a Grand Slam main draw, took a 5-2 lead in the second set before Sharapova battled back and had a chance to level it, but Panova held her nerve to send the match to a deciding set. Sharapova took a break between sets but grew more anguished as Panova seized a 2-0 lead, and then built two match points serving at 5-4.

However, five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova unleashed several powerful forehands to win the set and stave off an early exit. “I’m just happy to get through,” said Sharapova, who will now face either Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas or Slovakia’s Anna Schmiedlova in the third round. “I was one point away twice from being out of the tournament. “She played qualifying and came out here with not much to lose, was swinging freely and has one of the biggest serves out there.

“I was not playing my best but ... sometimes when you’re not playing your best you are just good enough to get through and that was what happened today.”
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