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22nd-Jan-2015

Sharapova into third round in Australian Open

By Agency

Fans with tickets for Rod Laver Arena might have felt a tad cheated when they saw that not one of the six Australian men in action on Wednesday would be stepping onto the championship's  court. And at 1pm, the value for money looked even poorer with the second of three day matches already seemingly half done.
World No. 2 Maria Sharapova was on her way to a regulation win against her Russian compatriot Alexandra Panova. The qualifier, who had entered the tournament without a grand slam match win to her name, had just been dispatched 6-1 in the opening set by the five-time major winner. It had taken just 26 minutes. Roger Federer - next up on court - would have been forgiven for expecting action within the hour.
And then without warning, the flow of the match changed dramatically.
Federer's estimated time of arrival was quickly pushed back, as Sharapova capitulated. Dropping the second set 6-2, and facing a 4-1 deficit in the third, the 2008 Australian Open winner was on the precipice of an early departure from this year's tournament.
Panova, 25, kept on getting the ball back, and Sharapova kept on making unforced errors, 43 across the second and third sets.
In all four of the service games Sharapova lost during the match she committed a double-fault, including twice in the second set when facing a break point.
Twice staring down match points at 5-3 in the third, what had been a passive display to that point suddenly turned aggressive, as she at last took advantage of Panova's tame second serve.
Two thundering forehand winners sandwiched an equally telling backhand drive. The "on" button was finally activated, and Sharapova again showed her Tarzan-like fighting qualities, which belie her well-documented Jane-like appearance.