MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two days made a world of difference for Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open.
Sharapova needed just 61 minutes to beat Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas 6-1, 6-1 on Friday, ensuring there were no match-point worries this time.
On Wednesday, No. 2-ranked Sharapova faced two match points but escaped with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 win over fellow Russian Alexandra Panova, a qualifier ranked No. 150.
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Against Diyas, Sharapova won the first set in 26 minutes and was broken to open the second, but responded by winning the next six in a dominating roll.
”I think I rebounded really well,” Sharapova said. ”I had a good hit yesterday and just kind of thought a little bit about what I wanted to try to achieve tonight no matter who I played.
”I tried to be a bit more aggressive … she can be a tough, tough player to play against if you give her the time to charge down the line like she likes to do, step down and hit flat, low. So she has that capability.”
Sharapova will try to be as dominating on Sunday when she plays Peng Shuai of China, a six-time WTA finalist but who’s never broken through for a tournament win.
Peng is a natural right-hander who hits two-handed on both sides. Sharapova has a 4-1 record against her – Peng’s only win came in Beijing in 2009 – and this is the third time in a row they will meet in a Grand Slam tournament – Sharapova won in straight sets at Wimbledon in 2011 and the French Open in 2012.
But the Chinese player made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon last year and the semifinals at the U.S. Open.
”We’ve always had good matches, Sharapova said. ”She’s had great success in the last few Slams. She’s a bit of an untraditional player with two hands on both sides. That’s a little tricky. But I enjoy playing against her.”
A win on Sunday could give Sharapova a quarterfinal against seventh-seeded Eugenie Bouchard, the other highly-ranked player in her quarter of the draw.
The top half of her draw still features No. 3-seeded Simona Halep, meaning Sharpova could meet the Romanian in the semifinals, a repeat of their French Open final last year won by Sharapova.