Sharapova made to work by grass specialist Pironkova
LONDON (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova was made to work hard for her place in the Wimbledon third round on Thursday by an opponent she said would be in the world's top five if every tournament was on grass.
Tsvetana Pironkova took advantage of three double faults by the top seed in the second set tiebreak before Sharapova roared through the third in 29 minutes to seal a 7-6 6-7 6-0 victory in a match held over from Wednesday.
"If she played on grass 365 days a year she'd be top five probably," Sharapova said of her Bulgarian opponent who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2010 and the quarters last year.
"Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. She has the perfect game for it. She always does really well against top players. She really rises for the occasion."
The 24-year-old Pironkova, ranked 38th in the world, won the first two games of the match on Wednesday and caused Sharapova problems with her powerful serve and speed around the court.
"Every time I play against her and every time I see her face a tough opponent, especially here, she plays extremely well," said Sharapova, who served 10 double faults.
"You saw some of that yesterday, definitely."
The Russian world number one, Wimbledon champion in 2004, made 30 unforced errors but showed flashes of the form that took her to the French Open title this month with 37 winners, mainly with her booming forehand.
Pironkova dominated the start of the contest in gloomy conditions on Wednesday but Sharapova clung on to save five set points before taking the first set into a tiebreak which she won 7-3. She was leading 3-1 in the second when the match was halted due to bad light.
"Obviously it felt like two matches in a way," Sharapova said. "Yesterday she came out firing, started so well, and had so many opportunities to win that set. I really hung on. I was just extremely tough.
"Today I wanted to start off really well because I knew I was up a break. It didn't go according to plan. Really served sloppy. In the third I changed it around."
The top seed broke Pironkova's serve in the opening game of the third set and, geeing herself up with animated cries of "c'mon" as she picked off the key points, Sharapova eased through to a last-32 match against Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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