Melbourne: Maria Sharapova suffered a late wobble in the blazing centre court heat before easing past 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-1, 7-6(4) to reach the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
With the temperatures soaring, the former champion fired a barrage of winners past the Latvian to roar through the first set in 23 minutes at Rod Laver Arena.
Sharapova wavered when serving for the match at 5-4, allowing Sevastova to drag the match into a tiebreak, but the Russian doubled down on her baseline firepower to raise three match points quickly.
She closed out the match on the second when Sevastova clubbed a forehand long and will next meet the winner of 2016 champion Angelique Kerber and Donna Vekic for a place in the last-16.
"It's a warm day. I did my job in two sets against someone that's been troubling in the past for me," said Sharapova, who missed last year's tournament while serving a 15-month doping ban. "So third round of the Australian Open, I don't know, I think I deserve to smile out there after that victory."
Seeds continue to fall
World number 123 Bernarda Pera sent ninth seed Johanna Konta tumbling out of the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-4, 7-5 upset in blazing sunshine on court two.
A lacklustre serving display from the British number one allowed lefthander Pera ample opportunity to showcase her powerful returns off both sides and the 23-year-old American duly delivered.
A single break of serve for 5-4 was enough to sew up the first set after 39 minutes when Konta sent a backhand long and lucky loser Pera was soon over the Briton’s serve in the second.
Konta, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park in 2016 and quarter-finalist last year, saved four match points but Pera was not to be denied and set up a meeting with Barbora Strycova when the Briton fluffed an overhead volley.
"It feels amazing. I was ready to leave on Monday and then they told me I'm in, so I was obviously excited. I was checking the tickets to fly back. I'm happy I didn't buy one," Pera said after her win.
Pera will next play No 20 Barbora Strycova, who beat Lara Arruabarrena 6-3, 6-4.
Third seed Garbine Muguruza was another big-name casualty at the Australian Open as she lost 7-6(1), 6-4 in the second round to tricky Taiwanese doubles specialist Hsieh Su-wei.
In searing heat on Rod Laver Arena, the powerful Wimbledon champion never got to grips with 88th-ranked Hsieh’s unusual game style and looked totally perplexed by the end.
Muguruza had battled back from 5-2 down in the opening set but 32-year-old Hsieh, who plays double-handed on both sides, pulled out all the stops to take the tiebreak 7-1.
Hsieh pulled clear in the second set with her relentless accuracy but faltered with the winning line in sight, dropping serve at 5-2.
Muguruza double-faulted at deuce in the next game to give Hsieh a match point but survived and held serve to ask the question of Hsieh’s nerve for a second time.
There would be no escape this time as Hsieh guided away a backhand winner on her second match point to claim the biggest singles victory of her 17-year career.
Muguruza joins other seeds Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Coco Vandeweghe, Kristina Mladenovic and Konta as early departures from the women’s draw.
Hsieh will face Poland’s 26th seed Agnieszka Radwanska for a place in the fourth round of a grand slam singles for only the second time, having reached that stage 10 years ago here.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jan 18, 2018 10:28:58 IST