Maria Sharapova has escaped a second-round exit from the Madrid Open by defeating up-and-coming Christina McHale on Tuesday.
The Russian regained control after finding herself 4-1 down in the deciding set to overwhelm the young American 6-1 4-6 6-4 at the Magic Box tennis centre.
Despite enduring the rarity of an inconsistent service game, Sharapova looked comfortable from the opening point until McHale broke late in the second set, paving the way for her domination in the decider.
However the 21-year-old crumbled under the pressure of being two games away from victory over the World No. 9, allowing Sharapova the slim opportunity she needed to steer the match back in her favour.
The four-time grand slam winner did not drop a single point as she clawed back to 4-3 before a typical Sharapova ace wrapped up a hard-fought win to secure a route to the third round.
The 2013 Madrid finalist reviewed her triumph with a hint of caution, citing a lapse in the second set as cause for concern.
"After a really good start [in Madrid] I didn't keep that level. I think I had a bit of a letdown," she said.
Sharapova entered Madrid in pursuit of her second ATP singles title of this year, having won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in late April.
The 27-year-old was crowned champion after coming from behind to defeat Serbian World No. 12 Ana Ivanovic 3-6 6-4 6-1 in the Stuttgart final.
Sharapova joins a host of other Top 10 seeds at the quarter-final stage of the Madrid Open. China’s Li Na brushed aside her compatriot Zheng Jie 6-2 6-3 to book a place in the last eight.
Fifth-seed Petra Kvitova recovered from a sluggish opening set to knock American Varvara Lepchenko out of contention with a 2-6 6-2 6-1 victory.
World No. 11 Sara Errani also progressed through a convincing 6-2 6-1 win over fellow Italian Francesca Schiavone in what looked a highly intriguing matchup on paper before the match.
Serena Williams, who is looking for her third title in Madrid, will continue her defence of the Madrid Open crown when she takes on China’s Shuai Peng in their second-round clash today.
The World No. 1 defeated Swiss teenage qualifier Belinda Bencic in convincing fashion with a 6-2 6-1 demolition in the first-round.
Sharapova’s route to the semi-finals is blocked by Australian Sam Stosur, who grinded out a 7-5 3-6 6-1 victory against Spaniard Garbine Muguruza on Tuesday.
Sharapova leads 3-2 in her last five encounters with Stosur, however the Russian has won both their meetings on clay.
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