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Aus Open: Just happy to get through, says Maria Sharapova

Sharapova relieved after winning thrilling encounter against fellow Russian Alexandra Panova

Melbourne: Maria Sharapova hailed her mental strength after saving two match points on the way to a dramatic victory over unheralded fellow Russian Alexandra Panova at the Australian Open.

Maria Sharapova serves during her match against Alexandra Panova in Melbourne yesterday. Pic/AFP
Maria Sharapova serves during her match against Alexandra Panova in Melbourne yesterday. Pic/AFP 

Qualifier Panova, ranked 150th in the world, looked to be on her way to a stunning upset at the expense of the number two seed when she served for the second-round match at 5-4 in the deciding set.

However, 2008 champion Sharapova, who also trailed 4-1 in the decider, produced two thumping forehands to save the match points and went on to win 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena.

"I'm just happy to get through," Sharapova said. "I wasn't playing my best tennis today. I think she played a pretty inspired match and she's played a few matches in qualifying. She came out with not much to lose, swinging freely and going for her shots.

Alexandra Panova
Alexandra Panova 

"I didn't want to be out here for two and a half hours, but that's sometimes how it goes." Sharapova, who will face Zarina Dyas in the third round after the 31st seed defeated Anna Schmiedlova 8-6 in the third set, added: "I thought my thought process through the match to that point (saving the match points) 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.

'Mental side helped out'
"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." Panova was gracious in defeat, adding: "She came up with good shots, with the winners.

What could I do? I should have played even better or something to keep the momentum. She's a great fighter. She's a great champion. To take it from her, you really need something extra."

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