Maria Sharapova showed immense resilience and a champion’s mentality in her second round match at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
Facing two match points and an early exit from the tournament Sharapova hit two winners: the first was a forehand return and the second was an unplayable cross court winner.
The second seed's opponent was her Russian compatriot Alexandra Panova who was a qualifier and is ranked at 150 in the world. Sharapova took the first set easily 6-1 but struggled in the second as her serve and forehand began letting her down.
The qualifier took the second set 4-6 and dominated the final set to lead 1-4. Sharapova stated that she sensed her opponent becoming tentative in the last game and, based on experience, she was able to lift herself mentally and physically.
Nerves are sometimes difficult to conceal so when Panova's ball toss started to go astray the writing was on the wall and Sharapova booked her place in the third round.
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Meanwhile, last year’s finalist and former champion Rafael Nadal showed immense grit to progress into the next round in a mammoth five set win over Tim Smyczek, 6-2, 3-6, 6-7, 6-3, and 7-5.
It was match that will be remembered for Tim Smyczek's incredible shot making and sportsmanship. While Nadal was serving for the match, a rowdy spectator shouted and caused the Spaniard to make an error.
Smyczek let Nadal re-take another first serve, and such a sporting act in the heat of battle - physically and metaphorically - is very rare and should be commended. The world number 112 qualifier from Milwaukee may have lost the match but has made a lot of fans.
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