The fourth day of the Australian Open almost saw a colossal upset on the women’s side, but it was eventually averted as Maria Sharapova displayed her trademark resiliency to claw her way to a close three-set win. She will next meet Zarina Diyas for a spot in the fourth round of the tournament.
The second seed looked to be on her way to a straightforward win on Wednesday afternoon in Melbourne but quickly found herself in a tough match when Alexandra Panova stole the second set to force a decider between the two Russians. All eyes were on Rod Laver Arena as Panova took an early break in the third set and consolidated it with a second break minutes later. All appeared lost for the former champion, but she perservered and eventually managed to save two match points for 5-5. From there, the tides turned in dramatic fashion, and Sharapova won the following two games to close out the match 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.
Sharapova hit 8 aces, won 67% of her first service points and struck 38 winners. However, she also hit 51 unforced errors, which contributed to her difficulties on court.
“I thought my thought process through the match to that point was pretty negative. I think I was dwelling too much on my mistakes, what I was doing wrong, not really being in the present, something that I’m really usually good at. At that point when you’re behind and you feel like you’re making a lot of errors, you don’t feel like you have a good rhythm out there, I just really tried to take it a point at a time, think positively, and change my thought process a little bit. When other things aren’t working, maybe the mental side of things will help you out. I think in the end maybe that’s what did.”
The Russian will next come up against rising star Zarina Diyas, who also needed three sets to advance to the third round of the tournament. She struck 7 aces, 38 winners and won 62% of her first service points to win in 2 hours and 40 minutes.
This marks the first time that these two competitors will cross paths on the professional tour. While Diyas is capable of taking a set of Sharapova, she does not have the intensity to match the Russian’s resiliency.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova in Three Sets