LONDON: Former champions Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams took drastically different routes into the Wimbledon third round yesterday.
Top seed Sharapova, the 2004 champion, had to dig deep to clinch a gritty 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (3/7), 6-0 victory over Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova, a semi-finalist in 2010 and quarter-finalist last year. Meanwhile, four-time champion Williams also reached the third round with a 6-1, 6-4 demolition of Hungarian qualifier Melinda Czink.
Sharapova, playing her first tournament since her maiden French Open triumph, had recovered from 5-2 down to take the first set and had just broken to move 3-1 ahead when the tie was suspended due to bad light on Wednesday. On the resumption, Pironkova belied her ranking of 38 to level the tie as the Court One crowd sensed an upset. It was the first set the 24-year-old had snatched from the Russian in four meetings, but Sharapova took her 2012 three-set record to a perfect nine from nine by racing through the decider. She will next face Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei as last year’s runner-up tries to reach the Wimbledon final for the third time.
“I started so slow today, but I guess it’s more important how you finish,” said Sharapova. “She loves playing on grass and came out firing. I was a bit tentative and just couldn’t get much rhythm. But I tried to focus on my game and I’m happy I really stepped it up in that third set. I started with no motor whatsoever today. I was just making errors and I really served sloppy, but in the third I changed it around and I’m happy to have wrapped up the match.”
Sixth-seed Williams faces Chinese 25th seed Zheng Jie, who she beat in the 2008 semi-finals, for a place in the last-16.
“As the tournament goes on, you tend to play a little better,” said Williams. “It was great to be back on Centre Court. It’s amazing and I served really well.”
Ivanovic marches on
Meanwhile, Ana Ivanovic, who vowed to return to the summit of women tennis, marched on to the third round with a comfortable win against Kateryna Bondarenko 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).
Also through to round three was eighth-seed Angelique Kerber of Germany who beat Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 7-5, 6-3 and 10th-seed Sara Errani who breezed past Anne Keothavong 6-1, 6-1. Kei Nishikori, the 19th-seed, became the first Japanese man to reach the third round for 17 years by beating France’s Florent Serra 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.
In the men’s singles, David Ferrer defeated Kenny de Schepper 7-6 (7/1), 6-2, 6-4 while Radek Stepanek overcame Benjamin Becker 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2012.
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