Sharapova fights off match points to beat qualifier


MELBOURNE: 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.

With the air temperature approaching 32 degrees Celsius, Sharapova had raced through the first set in 26 minutes, winning two service games to love and breaking her Russian compatriot three times.

The 25-year-old Panova, whose opening round win over Sorana Cirstea was her first in the main draw of a grand slam, ground to a 5-2 lead in the second set before Sharapova battled back and had an opportunity to level it at 5-5, but Panova held her nerve to send it to a decider.

The world number two took a break between sets but grew more anguished as Panova seized a 2-0 lead and then held two match points while serving at 5-4 before the five-time grand slam winner unleashed several powerful forehands to stay alive. (Reuters)