Sharapova battles past Pironkova
Maria Sharapova survived a Wimbledon scare as she fended off Tsvetana Pironkova in three sets.
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.
But Bulgarian Pironkova, a Wimbledon semi-finalist two years ago and quarter-finalist last year, threatened to turn the match around before a destructive display from Sharapova in the deciding set gave her a 7-6 (7/3) 6-7 (3/7) 6-0 victory.
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 fired 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.