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Australian Open: Maria Sharapova strolls into Round 4

Melbourne: Fired-up second seed Maria Sharapova blitzed her way into the Australian Open fourth round yesterday, swatting aside Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in straight sets.

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova celebrates after beating Zarina Diyas in Melbourne yesterday. Pic/AFP.

The Russian five-time Grand Slam champion crushed the 31st seed 6-1, 6-1 to revive her Open campaign after surviving a massive scare in her previous match against compatriot Alexandra Panova.

The 27-year-old, the 2008 champion at Melbourne Park, ramped up her aggression against Diyas after being forced to save two match points in the Panova three-setter, sending a message that she is back to her best.

“She (Diyas) is capable of playing really well if you give her the chance. She’s young, up-and-coming and has nothing to lose, and sometimes those matches are the toughest ones,” she said.

Need for aggression
Sharapova said she was hurting after almost exiting the tournament and was determined to bounce back strongly. “I started really focused, I knew I had a tough, long match previously, so I wanted to start off strong and finish strong, I think I did a good job of that,” she said.

“I rebounded really well. I just thought a little bit about what I wanted to try to achieve tonight... I focused on myself more than anything else. Just tried to be a bit more aggressive.”

Uncharacteristically, Sharapova revealed she had doubts about how she would respond after seeing her title dream hanging by a thread. “You never quite know after such a big challenge,” she said. “You have so many thoughts going through your mind and all of a sudden you’re still in the tournament and you feel like you have another life.”

Sharapova’s fourth round opponent will be China’s Peng Shuai, who made the US Open semi-finals last year.

Tricky challenge
“We haven’t played each other in a long while,” Sharapova said. “It’s great to play someone who’s been going well in the Slams and in particular had such a great run at the US Open. She’s going to be a tough one. You know, she’s a bit of an untraditional player with two hands on both sides. That’s a little tricky.”

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