Sharapova survives Wimbledon scare


Tennis:Maria Sharapova survived a Wimbledon scare today as she fended off Tsvetana Pironkova in three sets to reach the third round, while Serena Williams wasted little time or energy progressing as she blew away Hungary's Melinda Czink on Centre Court.

The 25-year-old top seed and title favourite led by a set and a break in their second-round contest when bad light stopped play on Wednesday night. However, Bulgarian Pironkova, a Wimbledon semi-finalist two years ago and quarter-finalist last year, threatened to turn the match around today before a destructive display from Sharapova in the deciding set gave her a 7-6 (7/3) 6-7 (3/7) 6-0 victory.

"I started too slow today and she came out firing," Sharapova said.

Pironkova made the perfect start by reeling in the break of serve by which Sharapova had led.

That break back was immediate, with 24-year-old Pironkova bringing the second set back on serve at 3-2 and then staying with the Russian to 6-5, at which point the underdog was made to serve to stay in the match.

A stunning drop shot after an electrifying rally put Pironkova ahead, Sharapova netted with a backhand on the next point, and the players were soon into a tie-break.

Pironkova claimed the first mini-break but gave it back with a double fault. Sharapova, who for a large part of her career has had a serving problem, threw in a pair of doubles to trail 4-1, then lanced a shot beyond the baseline to bring a deciding set closer.

And when a forehand landed long, the set belonged to Pironkova. But that was the end of her resistance, with Sharapova showing the poise which has taken her to number one in the world as she shook off her mid-match blues and raced ahead by a double break.

A third break soon followed to carry Sharapova into a 5-0 lead, with the decibel levels from her grunting seemingly rising with the soaring level of her performance.

Sharapova then ploughed a crosscourt forehand past Pironkova's defences to make sure of her last-32 place.

The 30-year-old Williams did not look quite at her best when she saw off Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first round, but she put in a brutal display this afternoon, particularly, in the first set, to clinch a 6-1 6-4 win.

The four-time Wimbledon champion fired down seven aces on the way to wrapping up the first set in just 19 minutes and despite an improved performance from Czink in the second set, nothing was going to stop Williams from advancing to a third-round tie against China's Jie Zheng.

British number one Anne Keothavong failed to emulate Heather Watson as she crashed out of the tournament in the second round at the hands of French Open finalist Sara Errani.

Watson became the first British woman in 10 years to reach the third round yesterday when she beat Jamie Hampton, and she could yet overtake Keothavong in the rankings if she upsets third seed Agnieszka Radwanska on Friday.

Errani is having by far the best season of her career but is much more at home on clay than grass, and there was some optimism in Britain of Keothavong pushing her close. However, the 28-year-old began very nervously, with a second serve in the opening game that was closer to the baseline than the service line, and she did not get on the scoreboard until the fifth game.

Errani was playing well, keeping the ball close to the lines and troubling Keothavong with her use of the drop shot - one of the keys to her French Open success.

The second set was slightly less one-sided. Keothavong was broken in the fourth game but had two chances to break straight back, only for Errani to find the line both times.

When the Italian broke again to lead 5-1, it was all but over, and she confidently held serve to triumph 6-1 6-1 and move through to a third-round meeting with Yaroslava Shvedova or Kiki Bertens.

Keothavong at least has the consolation of knowing she will be back at the All England Club in a month's time after being given a wild card for the women's singles at the Olympics.

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