MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — JANUARY 18: Maria Sharapova of Russia attempts to cool down between games in her second round match against Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia on day four of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — JANUARY 18: Maria Sharapova of Russia attempts to cool down between games in her second round match against Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia on day four of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Sharapova gets revenge, has sights on Kerber

UNTROUBLED by Melbourne Park's scorching conditions and an emerging nemesis, Maria Sharapova has thundered into an Australian Open third-round blockbuster clash with fellow grand champion Angelique Kerber.

Sharapova, the 2008 Open champion, and 2016 winner Kerber - who celebrated her 30th birthday - will do battle for a place in the round of 16.

And Sharapova swiftly claimed underdog status.

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"I came in with no ranking. I'm around 50 in the world at this point, so I know I'm going to be facing seeded players, first, second, third round," Sharapova said after downing Latvian 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-1 6-6 (7-4).

"She (Kerber) happens to be the next one that's in the draw that I have to play.

"As I said before, I look forward to these matches. I want to be playing against opponents that have former grand slam champions.

"She's had success here. She's had success playing out here in these conditions on these courts. I want to see where I am on that level."

Maria Sharapova attempts to cool down between games. Picture: Getty Images
Maria Sharapova attempts to cool down between games. Picture: Getty Images

 

Kerber was too solid for Croat Donna Vekic, advancing 6-4 6-1 to continue her a stunning resurgence after a troubled 2017 season.

"I really enjoy to be here in Australia," the German said.

"My 30th birthday in Australia. I'm feeling good and it was good to win.

"Donna is always a dangerous player. It's just amazing to win here on my birthday.

"I'm just trying to forget last year and try and enjoy my tennis again.

"I'm so happy to be playing good tennis again like 2016.

"I just to try to enjoy every single point and enjoy every match."

 

 

Sharapova was absent from last season from Melbourne Park while serving a 15-months doping suspension, but she is determined to make up for lost time.

Determined to avenge US Open defeat to Sevastova, Sharapova clicked into top gear to escape another defeat.

"When she broke me back (in the second set) I was thinking it was going to be three sets again," Sharapova said.

"She is a tough opponent, she has a game that is very tricky the matter the conditions.

"I had to get a really good start, that is what I did wrong the previous two times and I wanted to change that around.

"Little dicey in the second set, to say the least, but I got through it. I did the job in two, and that's not something I did towards the end of last year.

"I think that's an improvement.

Russia's Maria Sharapova reacts after winning a point against Anastasija Sevastova.
Russia's Maria Sharapova reacts after winning a point against Anastasija Sevastova.

Sharapova, 30, was making her first appearance on Rod Laver Arena since returning a positive swab to banned Meldonium after a quarter-final loss here to Serena Williams in 2016.

The baseliner said she was inspired after walking past images of past winners in a tunnel leading onto the tournament's main show court.

"It is extremely special to see that line of champions, the amount of years, I am a small part of its history," she said.

"You see former champions winning this event many times. To be able to hold that once was great, but to see so many champions hold it gives me motivation."

Anastasija Sevastova hits a return during her second-round match.
Anastasija Sevastova hits a return during her second-round match.

Sharapova recovered from the testing Sevastova clash before casting an eye over Kerber's encounter with Vekic.

"You have to do your homework," she said in response to whether she would scout that match tactically.

"You are the best version of yourself, that is what usually works out."

Troubled by the sun, Sharapova double-faulted four times but, despite a rash of second-set lapses, she was never in danger of losing.

"It's a warm day. I did my job in two sets against someone that's been troubling in the past for me.

"So third round of the Australian Open, I think I deserve to smile out there after that victory."

Maria Sharapova used bags of ice in attempt to her temperature in check.
Maria Sharapova used bags of ice in attempt to her temperature in check.


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