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Maria Sharapova survives Australian Open 2nd-round scare

Maria Sharapova of Russia survived to win her second round match at the Australian Open. File photo by UPI/John Angelillo.
Maria Sharapova of Russia survived to win her second round match at the Australian Open. File photo by UPI/John Angelillo. | License Photo

Staring match point in the face, Maria Sharapova let loose a thunderous forehand and showed challenger Alexandra Panova why she's ranked No. 2 in the world.

Sharapova trailed 1-4 in the third set, staved off a pair of match points and survived for one of her most memorable comeback victories in an improbably entertaining second-round match at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

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The match lasted 2 1/2 hours, the third set alone taking 68 minutes despite Panova jumping out to a commanding lead with a pair of breaks of Sharapova's serve.

Sharapova earned one back but trailed 4-5 and faced two match points. On the first, the five-time Grand Slam winner unleashed a powerful winning forehand on a second serve that hugged the line. The second was a longer point also won by Sharapova with a forehand, and from there Panova wilted.

The French Open champ Sharapova won the game, held at love and quickly earned two match points of her own. She only needed one, as Panova was long at the end of a lengthy rally to secure Sharapova's 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory.

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"I think I was dwelling too much on my mistakes and what I was doing wrong, and not really being in the present, something that I'm usually really good at," said Sharapova. "At that point when you're behind, you feel like you're making a lot of errors and don't have a good rhythm out there, but I really just kept trying to take it one point at a time, think positively, and change my thought process a little bit out there.

"When other things aren't working, maybe the mental side of things will help you out."

The 25-year-old Panova entered the season's first major as a qualifier and came in ranked 150th in the world. She lost all five of her previous Grand Slam matches before cruising past Sorana Cirstea on Monday.

Sharapova, who committed 51 unforced errors and six double faults, won this major tournament in 2008 and was twice a runner-up. The former world No. 1 exited in the fourth round last year.

Her next opponent will be 31st-seeded Kazakhstani Zarina Diyas, who overcame Anna Schmiedlova 3-6, 6-2, 8-6 at Melbourne Park.

Meanwhile, third-seeded French Open runner-up Simona Halep whipped Aussie Jarmila Gajdosova 6-2, 6-2 and seventh-seeded Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard blitzed Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 6-0, 6-3.

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Up next for Halep will be American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, while Bouchard will face France's Caroline Garcia.

Tenth-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova mauled Italian veteran Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-4, while 14th-seeded former French Open runner-up Sara Errani of Italy got past Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

In other action involving seeds, No. 21 Peng Shuai pasted Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1, 6-1 and No. 22 Czech and last week's Sydney runner-up Karolina Pliskova held off France's Oceane Dodin 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.

Also on Day 3, Mattek-Sands edged out Kristina Mladenovic 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6); Garcia beat Stefanie Voegele 6-3, 6-4; Czech Lucie Hradecka beat Polona Hercog 4-6, 6-3, 6-2; German Julia Goerges outlasted Klara Koukalova 6-3, 4-6, 6-2; Belgian Yanina Wickmayer snuck past Lara Arruabarrena 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; German Carina Witthoeft drilled American Christina McHale 6-3, 6-0; Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu topped Katerina Siniakova 7-5, 6-4; and Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova downed Puerto Rican Monica Puig 6-2, 7-6 (8-6).

On some more second-round action on Thursday, world No. 1 Serena Williams will face Vera Zvonareva in a rematch of the 2010 Wimbledon final, which was won by Williams, fourth-seeded reigning Wimbledon champ and last week's Sydney titlist Petra Kvitova will take on German Mona Barthel, and eighth-seeded U.S. Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki will battle fellow former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.

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The unseeded two-time Aussie champ from Belarus Azarenka titled back-to-back here in 2012 and 2013 before being slowed by a foot injury last year.

She will meet Wozniacki for an eighth time on Thursday, with the Dane leading the Belarusian in their lifetime series, 4-3. Wozniacki got the better of Azarenka in the third round at the 2008 U.S. Open in their lone Grand Slam matchup.

Also slated for action on Day 4 are sixth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska, 11th-seeded 2014 Aussie runner-up Dominika Cibulkova and 18th-seeded former No. 1 and 2003 Aussie finalist Venus Williams, who will take on fellow American Lauren Davis.

[SportsNetwork.com]

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