Andy Murray and Roger Federer progress in Melbourne
Federer made to work for second round place while Sharapova survives major scare
Roger Federer is through to the third round of the Austrlaian Open after beating Somione Bolelli in four sets. (Photograph: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Roger Federer was made to work for his place in the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday after Maria Sharapova suffered a huge scare against a 150th-ranked qualifier as the heat rose at Melbourne Park.
Rod Laver Arena’s centre court was ground zero for high drama early in the day, with Russian Sharapova finding herself two service breaks down at 4-1 in the deciding set against compatriot Alexandra Panova.
With the temperature rising above 32 degrees Celsius (90F), Sharapova showed ice in her veins, first clawing back to 5-4 and then clobbering a string of forehand winners to save two match-points in an exhilarating counter-attack.
With that, the belief drained quickly from her plucky 25-year-old opponent and after levelling with another smoking forehand down the line, second seed Sharapova closed out the match 6-1 4-6 7-5.
“When other things aren’t working, maybe the mental side of things will help you out,” the five-times grand slam champion told reporters.
“Until the very end I still try to dictate, I still try to find my way.”
The Swiss master was troubled by a painful injury to the little finger on his racquet hand and growled at a prying television camera when medical staff worried at it before the second set.
He shrugged it off, though, and marched on to a 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 over the 48th-ranked Bolelli, sealing the match with a rush to the net that would have pleased coach Stefan Edberg.
“It felt like a bee stung me,” the 33-year-old second seed said of his finger problem. “I was like, ‘this can’t be possible’.
“I’d never had this pain before... Thankfully it wasn’t so bad at the end.”
The Scot’s win extended his unbeaten record against Australians to 10-0, deflating the crowd’s joy slightly after 10 locals had made it past the first round across both the men’s and women’s draws.
“I think I moved pretty well today. I defended well, you know, which is something -- if you want to win these tournaments, you need to defend well,” said Murray, who next faces Portugal’s Joao Sousa before a potentially mouth-watering clash against young gun Grigor Dimitrov.
The Bulgarian Dimitrov’s heart may have been in his mouth had he watched his girlfriend Sharapova’s match and the 10th seed also suffered a wobble in beating unseeded Slovakian Lukas Lacko 6-3 6-7(12) 6-3 6-3.