Melbourne: Fired-up second seed Maria Sharapova blitzed her way into the Australian Open fourth round on Friday, swatting aside Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in straight sets.
The Russian five-time Grand Slam champion crushed the 31st seed 6-1, 6-1 to revive her Open campaign after surviving a massive scare in her previous match against compatriot Alexandra Panova.
The 27-year-old, the 2008 champion at Melbourne Park, ramped up her aggression against Diyas after being forced to save two match points in the Panova three-setter, sending a message that she is back to her best.
“She (Diyas) is capable of playing really well if you give her the chance. She’s young, up-and-coming and has nothing to lose, and sometimes those matches are the toughest ones,” she said.
Sharapova said she was hurting after almost exiting the tournament and was determined to bounce back strongly.
“I started really focused, I knew I had a tough, long match previously, so I wanted to start off strong and finish strong, I think I did a good job of that,” she said.
“I rebounded really well. I just thought a little bit about what I wanted to try to achieve tonight… I focused on myself more than anything else. Just tried to be a bit more aggressive, concentrate.”
Uncharacteristically, Sharapova revealed she had doubts about how she would respond after seeing her title dream hanging by a thread.
“You never quite know after such a big challenge,” she said.
“You have so many thoughts going through your mind and all of a sudden you’re still in the tournament and you feel like you have another life.”
‘Tricky’ next round
The world number two was in no mood to hang around against Diyas, taking a break in the first game.
The diminutive Kazak tried to take on Sharapova from the baseline but was overwhelmed in only her second appearance at Melbourne Park, with the Russian rattling through the first set in just 26 minutes.
Diyas mixed it up with forays to the net in the second set, taking a break off Sharapova in the first match.
But it was a temporary reprieve and normal service resumed when Sharapova immediately broke back and continued to dominate before closing out the match in just over an hour.
Sharapova’s fourth round opponent will be China’s Peng Shuai, who made the US Open semi-finals last year.
“We haven’t played each other in a long while,” Sharapova said. “It’s great to play someone who’s been going well in the Slams and in particular had such a great run at the US Open.
“She’s going to be a tough one. You know, she’s a bit of an untraditional player with two hands on both sides. That’s a little tricky.” (AFP)