TIME tennis

Serena Williams Wins Australian Open in Champion Form

Serena Williams
Serena Williams of the US celebrates after victory in her women's singles final match against Russia's Maria Sharapova on day thirteen of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan. 31, 2015. William West—AFP/Getty Images

It's her 19th major title

They come in all varieties. There are micromanagers and bloviators. There are delegators and relegators and benevolent despots. Kiss-ups and kick-downs. There are authentic leaders and natural born chiefs. Name a workforce and, almost by definition, there is a boss. In sports, bosses cut a remarkably wide swath. Armed with talking points, projecting defiance as he defends what is often indefensible, Roger Goodell is one kind of boss. Adam Silver, self-deprecating and often smiling, is another.

Tennis has bosses, too. Many, in fact, given its oxymoronic fractured structure. But the sport’s uberboss might be Serena Williams. She has won more major titles than anyone else currently playing. She has a cast of underlings and an entire tour that bends to her accord.

Her leadership style? She’s one of those bosses who is not always present. Early in the process, you wonder if she hasn’t spread herself too thin, if she’s fully committed, if she’s pondering her next move. And then, once the deal is on the table and it’s time to close, she arrives in full force, reminding you of why it is she resides at the top of the org chart.

The 2015 Australian Open animated Serena-as-boss. Early on, she looked sluggish. She faced 31 break points through the first six rounds of the tournament. For the first week, Serena looked disengaged. In two of her first four matches, she dropped the first set. For the first week, it looked like her older sister—herself a tennis boss at one time—might be more likely to win the title

Then, when it was time to get down to brass tacks, the Boss came to work. This is how she rolls. This is how she has always rolled. How did she respond to those 31 break points? By making 23 first serves, winning 21 of them, eight of them by serving aces. How did she respond once she dropped those first sets? By winning 6-2, 6-0, 6-3, and 6-2. The second week of the tournament? In the last three rounds, when the competition is (notionally) tightest, she lost a grand total of 21 games and zero sets.

In tonight’s final against Maria Sharapova, Serena reconfirmed that, yes, she is the boss. Though cast as rivals, they have rivalry the way a juicer has a rivalry with an orange. Their record is not a head-to-head, so much as it is a foot-to-backside. What started as a “streak” has since grown legs and tale. Coming into this match, Serena had beaten Sharapova 15 straight times, going back more than 15 years. As Serena put it the other day: “I think my game matches up well against her. I love playing her. I think it’s fun. I love her intensity. For whatever reason, I love playing. I have the time of my life.”

That fun continued tonight. In a thoroughly enthralling match, Serena won on every dimension outserving, outslugging, outrunning and outfighting Sharapova 6-3, 7-6 (5). A player beats you this ritually and it becomes deeply mental. But what is Sharapova to do? She can’t move to Serena side-to-side. She won’t outserve her. She can’t really pin her deep to the baseline either, not with Serena dictating play.

And then there is the matter of clutch play. As Sharapova, admirably, found her game and dialed in her shots, Williams went one better. Serena sent 18 aces hissing across the net and won 84 percent of her first serves. In a tiebreaker, Serena, predictably, summoned her best work. Serving at match point, Serena hit ace, only to get a dubious let call. She smiled, inhaled and hit the exact same serve for another ace. That’s her career, distilled to its essence.

For whatever indifference Serena may have projected earlier in her career, her legacy and reputation now matter greatly. She is still going strong, meeting her quarterly targets (and targets on the court). But no one stays in the corner office forever. She is concerned now about how history recalls her. Once blissfully unaware of tennis history, she now knows that passed Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, with 19 major titles, well within sniffing distance of Steffi Graf’s 22. By the shrieks and jumps after she clubbed that last ace, you have a feeling that she knew she hadn’t just beat Sharapova; she had beaten some more history.

The hallways here are adorned with photos of former champions. After still another close, Serena left the court, headed to the locker room and passed them all. Evert,Navratilova, Monica Seles, Graf.

Serena kept walking. Walking like a boss.

This article was originally published on SI.com

TIME celebrity

Tennis Star Andy Murray’s Fiancée Drops the F-Bomb Courtside, Internet Goes Wild

You need to have this girl on your side

Scottish tennis star Andy Murray may have just beaten Czech Tomas Berdych to make it through to the finals of the Australian Open, but it’s his fiancée Kim Sears who has taken social media by storm.

Cameras caught 27-year-old Sears’ apparent expletive-filled reaction to Murray’s break in the first set.

 

And professional lip-readers have been called in to suggest what Sears — an artist who specializes in animal portraits — was actually saying, the Telegraph reports.

Lip reader Tina Lannin believes Sears says,“F—— have that you flashy Czech, you flashy f—. If that’s what you get…”

Whereas lip reader and teacher Martine Monksfield thinks it was, “F—— have that Czech you fat old f—.”

But Jessica Rees, a forensic lip reader says it could be, “F—— hell! That f—— Czech could fight to five now he’s one down.”

Murray came to her defense after the match, saying the outburst was “completely normal.”

The Internet too found little wrong with somebody voicing, shall we say, impassioned support for her partner. German tennis player Andrew Petkovic summed up the feelings of many when she tweeted:

[Telegraph]

TIME tennis

Murray Into Final; Williams, Sharapova to Meet in Australia

Australian Open Tennis
Andy Murray of Britain chases down a shot to Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic during their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Jan. 29, 2015 Andy Brownbill—AP

This is Murray's fourth time reaching the Australian Open final

(MELBOURNE) — Andy Murray has reached the Australian Open final for the fourth time, beating Tomas Berdych in a tension-filled semifinal to earn one more shot at a long elusive title.

Serena Williams has five titles from five finals at Melbourne Park, and earned a chance at another one when she advanced to a championship match against Maria Sharapova, who has one Australian title from three trips to the final.

Top-ranked Serena Williams beat 19-year-old Madison Keys 7-6 (5), 6-2 in an all-American semifinal Thursday, after Sharapova beat fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets.

In the night match, sixth-seeded Murray beat No. 7 Berdych 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5. There was obvious animosity between the players due to a coach switching from the Murray to the Berdych camp.

An aggravated Murray bristled when Berdych spoke a few words to him after the first-set tiebreaker, and yelled profanities throughout the match. TV cameras appeared to show his fiancee, Kim Sears, uttering expletives in support.

Murray, the former U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion, said the emotional reactions were understandable given the hype leading into the match.

Murray has lost three finals at Melbourne Park — to Roger Federer in 2010 and Novak Djokovic in ’11 and ’13. He’ll get a chance to end that streak on Sunday, against either Djokovic or defending champion Stan Wawrinka.

“Obviously losing in the finals is disappointing. But making four finals is a very, very difficult thing to do,” he said. “And, yeah, I’m proud of my record here. I’ll go in with best tactics possible, prepare well — I literally couldn’t have done anything more to put myself in a better position come Sunday.”

Williams has put herself into a prime position. The 18-time Grand Slam champion, who has struggled with a cold for a week, said she’d benefit from a tough workout against Keys, who pounded her with heavy groundstrokes and a big serve for the first set.

“She pushed me really hard the first set … and I had to really dig deep mentally to get through that,” Williams said. “It was a little frustrating. I had like nine or 10 match points and couldn’t close it out.”

Keys, playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal, saved seven match points on serve in a penultimate game that lasted more than 11 minutes. Williams kept her cool, though, wasting one match point on her serve before closing with an ace to reach her 23rd major final. Williams was at her best after dropping her opening service game, finishing the match with just one double-fault, firing 13 aces and defending when she needed to defend.

Keys had control until she was broken in the sixth game.

She held in the 12th game, closing with an ace to force a tiebreaker, but quickly fell behind 4-1 with Serena firing two aces. She saved two set points with aces but had no chance of extending the tiebreaker when Williams hit another unreturnable serve, and started jumping for joy.

Williams led 5-1 lead in the second set when Keys held, denying victory for one more game the woman who inspired her to take up tennis.

“It’s been so long since I’ve even been in a final here,” said the 33-year-old Williams, who will be the oldest woman to play an Australian final in the Open era and will retain top-ranking regardless of the result. “My theory now is to relax and play the match as best as I can.'”

Sharapova, who beat No. 10-seeded Makarova 6-3, 6-2, has lost her last 15 matches against Williams. Her only two wins in their 18 career meetings were in 2004.

She won the 2008 Australian title, but was comprehensively outplayed in her two other trips to the final — by Williams in 2007 and by Victoria Azarenka in 2012.

“I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam no matter who I’m facing and whether I’ve had a terrible record, to say the least, against someone,” Sharapova said. “It doesn’t matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot.”

The five-time major winner opened the 2015 season in confident style by winning the Brisbane International title but had a close call in the second round here, having to save match points against No. 150-ranked Russian qualifier Alexandra Panova.

“It’s been a strange road for me to get to the finals, but I’m happy,” Sharapova said. “I felt like I was given a second chance. I just wanted to take my chances.”

TIME tennis

Williams, Sharapova to Meet in Australian Open Final

Australian Open Tennis
Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after defeating her compatriot Ekaterina Makarova in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Jan. 29, 2015 Vincent Thian—AP

Sharapova has lost her last 15 head-to-head matches to Williams

(MELBOURNE, Australia) — Serena Williams weathered a barrage of big serves and heavy groundstrokes early and needed nine match points before beating Madison Keys 7-6 (5), 6-2 to set up an Australian Open final against second-seeded Maria Sharapova.

Top-ranked Williams, bothered by a cold in recent days, dominated the second set of the all-American semifinal, breaking Keys’ serve twice.

The 19-year-old Keys, playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal, saved seven match points on serve in a penultimate game that lasted more than 11 minutes. Williams kept her cool, wasting one match point on her serve before closing with an ace to reach her 23rd major final.

“She pushed me really hard the first set … and I had to really dig deep mentally to get through that,” Williams said, pausing to cough. “It was a little frustrating, I had like nine or 10 match points and couldn’t close it out. That doesn’t happen so much. She played like she didn’t have anything to lose.”

Sharapova, who beat No. 10-seeded Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in an all-Russian semifinal earlier Thursday to reach her fourth Australian Open final, has lost her last 15 head-to-head matches to Williams. Her only two wins in their 18 career meetings were at Wimbledon and the tour-ending championship in 2004.

“I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam no matter who I’m facing and whether I’ve had a terrible record, to say the least, against someone,” Sharapova said. “It doesn’t matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot. I will do everything I can to get the title.”

Williams, an 18-time major winner, is back in the final here for the first time since winning her fifth Australian title in 2010.

And her semifinal win ensured she will retain the top ranking, regardless of the outcome of the final.

The 33-year-old American said she was nervous at the start, and it showed. Keys broke her serve to open and dictated many of the longer rallies with her heavy ground strokes, forcing Williams to defend more than usual.

Keys, who beat Venus Williams in the quarterfinals to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time, had control until she was broken in the sixth game.

She held in the 12th game, closing with an ace to force a tiebreaker, but quickly fell behind 4-1 with Serena firing two aces. She saved two set points with aces but had no chance of extending the tiebreaker when Williams hit another unreturnable serve, and started jumping for joy behind the baseline.

Williams broke early in the second set and raced to a 5-1 lead before Keys held, denying victory for one more game the woman who inspired her to take up tennis.

Sharapova needed 10 minutes to hold in her opening service game, fending off two break points, in the earlier semifinals. She responded to the only service break against her in the first set by winning six straight games and seizing control of the match from the 10th-seeded Makarova, who had only taken one set off her in five previous matches.

Sharapova won the Australia Open title in 2008 but was comprehensively beaten in the championship matches in 2007, by then unseeded Williams, and in 2012 by Victoria Azarenka.

The five-time major winner opened the 2015 season in confident style by winning the Brisbane International title but had a close call in the second round here, having to save match points against No. 150-ranked Russian qualifier Alexandra Panova. Since then, she hasn’t faced a set point.

“It’s been a strange road for me to get to the finals, but I’m happy,” said Sharapova, who is now into her 10th Grand Slam final. “Came from behind in a few, really behind in one — saving match points. I felt like I was given a second chance. I just wanted to take my chances.”

TIME tennis

Madison Keys Beats Venus Williams to Advance to Her First Slam Semifinal

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN
Madison Keys celebrates winning her women's singles match against Venus Williams at the 2015 Australian Open in Melbourne on Jan. 28, 2015 Manan Vatsyayana—AFP/Getty Images

MELBOURNE — Nineteen-year-old Madison Keys booked her spot in the Australian Open semifinals with a hard-fought 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Venus Williams in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The teenager from Rock Island, Ill., overcame a mid-match leg injury to rally from a break down in the final set and break Venus three times and win the last three games of the match. With the win, Keys could make her top 20 debut when the new rankings come out on Monday.

In the first All-American Slam quarterfinal since Sloane Stephens defeated Serena Williams in Melbourne in 2013, the big-hitting teenager took advantage of a poor serving day for Venus. She broke Venus’ serve seven times in the match and looked in full control in building a set lead. But a lapse in concentration early in the second set found her down a double break at 1-4 and she appeared to injure her left thigh. After taking an off-court medical timeout to get the leg evaluated and taped, Keys came out to level the set at 4-4 before getting broken in the ninth game. Venus stepped up to pocket the set in style, firing down an ace to finish off the set.

Venus, who won their only prior match last year on clay, continued to take advantage of the Keys’ flat form in the third set, building a 3-1 lead and looking like the stronger player. But on a day when Venus served at just 51 percent first serves in, her second serve took a pounding from the Keys forehand return. As time went on, Keys lifted her level and aggression in the final set, winning five of the last six games to win the match. She finished with 34 winners to 45 unforced errors, while Venus hit 10 winners to 38 unforced errors.

“I definitely didn’t serve as consistently as I wanted to,” Venus said. “I felt like just not as aggressive off the ground as I would have liked. So I think in this kind of match you have to be aggressive. I give a lot of credit to her because she really set her points up. She was swinging freely.”

Venus admitted to losing her concentration and momentum after Keys’ lengthy medical timeout, but refuted any attempt to imply the timeout played a part in the outcome of the match. “You have to give credit where credit is due,” Venus said. “She played really well. This is her moment today. I think it was pretty rare that I was able to string together three or four points without an error. That was unfortunate for me today.”

This is the third straight year a teenager has made the women’s semifinals in Melbourne (Stephens in 2013, Bouchard last year). Keys will play either No. 1 Serena Williams or No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova in the semifinals.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME tennis

Tomas Berdych Stuns Rafael Nadal in Australian Open Quarterfinals

2015 Australian Open - Day 9
Rafael Nadal reacts to a point in his quarterfinal match against Tomas Berdych during the 2015 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Jan. 27, 2015 Clive Brunskill—Getty Images

MELBOURNE — No. 7 Tomas Berdych ended his 17-match losing streak to Rafael Nadal, stunning the Spaniard 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (5) to advance to the Australian Open semifinals. The big-hitting Czech came into the match without a win over Nadal in eight years, but behind pummeling ground strokes and, admittedly, an off-form Nadal, Berdych held off a third set charge from Nadal to win. The victory put Berdych into his second consecutive Australian Open semifinal, where he’ll face either No. 6 Andy Murray or Nick Kyrgios.

Berdych played an impossibly clean match to upend Nadal, who was seeking to advance to his fifth Australian Open semifinal. The Czech hit 46 winners to 21 unforced errors, firing 10 aces and no double-faults. Nadal appeared sluggish to start the match, hitting just one winner off his vaunted forehand side in the first set. Nadal saved two match points late in the fourth set on his serve to force a tiebreak, but Berdych was able to secure the minibreak early. Nadal finished with 24 winners to 26 unforced errors, with three aces and six double-faults.

“I was definitely ready for it,” Berdych said. “I set up my plan pretty well and I stuck with it all the way through the three sets. I think that was the biggest difference from our last matches.”

Berdych’s win sets up a possible clash against Murray in the semifinals. Murray fired his long-time coach and hitting partner Dani Vallverdu after the 2014 season over tension with Amelie Mauresmo, and Berdych hired Vallverdu onto his team. The results have been nothing but positive for Berdych. He goes into the semifinals without having lost a set.

“So far the work that we’ve done, I’m really happy how we’ve worked together so far. The good thing is that we haven’t spent so much time together and I’m already able to get things done on the court,” he said.

Here are three quick thoughts off Berdych’s big win:

1. This was long overdue

There’s a strong argument to be made that Berdych is the best active player not to win a Slam. He’s been a top 10 stalwart since 2010 but has made just one Slam final, at Wimbledon in 2010. Powerful and athletic for his height, Berdych has a history of rolling through the early rounds of tournaments only to get picked apart by the game’s best. It happened last year at the China Open, where he sailed into the final only to get demolished 6-0, 6-2 at the hands of No. 1 Novak Djokovic. He started the season similarly, losing just 15 games to make the Qatar Open final before losing 6-4, 7-5 to No. 10 David Ferrer.

On Tuesday he ran the risk of being on the losing side of the worst losing streak in the ATP Open Era. He stepped up and played a controlled match and never wavered as the finish line approached. Is he this year’s Stan Wawrinka?

2. Nadal’s rollercoaster tournament is over

A finalist last year, the Spaniard tempered the expectations before tournament, citing his limited match play after a long injury layoff in 2014. He came within a game of losing in the second round to No. 112 Tim Smyczek, but rebounded by not losing a set in his next two wins. But he wasn’t his best against Berdych. His movement was sluggish and his shots landed too short in the court, letting Berdych take big cuts at the ball. Television commentators suspected he was dealing with a minor leg injury that was playing with his mind and affecting his focus. But in the end this wasn’t a bad tournament for Nadal. Asking him to win a hard court title after playing just eight matches since Wimbledon was too much of an ask even for the great Rafa Nadal.

3. Andy Murray has to be salivating

He was the man with the toughest draw. At the start of the tournament it looked like he might have to go through Grigor Dimitrov, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and then Novak Djokovic to win this title. He took care of Dimitrov in four sets and Federer and Nadal are now out. Berdych has always been a tough opponent for him. The Czech leads the head-to-head 6-4. But if Murray can get a clean win over Nick Kyrgios later Tuesday, he has a great shot at making his first Slam final since he won Wimbledon two years ago.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME tennis

Andreas Seppi Upsets Roger Federer in Australian Open Third Round

XXX of ZZZZ plays a forehand in his/her third round match against XXXX of ZZZZZ during day five of the 2015 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.
Roger Federer looks on during his match against Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Jan. 23, 2015 Quinn Rooney—Getty Images

MELBOURNE — Three quick thoughts on Andreas Seppi’s upset over Roger Federer on Friday on Rod Laver Arena.

1) The ball wafted in the air, like a balloon caught in a breeze. It was break point in the second set and Andreas Seppi, a 30-year-old Italian journeyman was improbably leading the great Roger Federer. Though Federer could have hit an fairly easy overhead, the balls was veering toward the alley and Federer casually let it bounce. The shot landed gently and kissed the line. And suddenly Seppi was up a set and a break of serve. In those few seconds, Roger Federer’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day here at the Australian Open was duly summarized. He doomed by unfortunate luck, unfortunate decision making and, ultimately an unfortunate result.

In tournament’s biggest upset, Federer was dispatched in round three, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6. Call this the first major plot point of this event.

2) Let’s unload due credit on Seppi, ranked No. 46. Here is a longtime ATP rank-and-file who scored the signature win of his career. He had never beaten Federer in their 10 career meetings and taken only one set. He was steady and brave today, recovering after losing the third set. There were few flashes of brilliance, but he served steadily, endured a partisan crowd and met the moment in the fourth set tiebreaker—including a brilliant shot on match point—and won the match. But, truly, this result was more about Federer losing than Seppi winning. By any measure, it was a rotten day at the office. His backhand lacked punch. His movement was sluggish. The shanks that were so prevalent in 2013 made an unwelcome reappearance. Leading in the second-set tiebreaker, Federer played a few loose points and quickly lost the set. After a valiant fightback to win the third set, Federer played another lousy tiebreaker—double-faulting away a lead–and it was arrivederci…

3) This result will trigger a round of hand-wringing about the state of Federer universam. Is his body waging war with itself? Is time finally starting to wage war? What the hell happened today? It’s a fair line of inquiry— especially given the caliber of opponent and the dismal stat sheet. But here’s a plea for reason. Less than two weeks ago on the same surface, Federer beat both Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic. Federer has now lost one match this year. Same as Djokovic and Nadal and Nishikori. Federer is unlikely to provide much insight: in 2013, he suffered a string of similar losses and, gamely, didn’t mention a back injury. This isn’t how Federer wanted to start his grand Slam campaign. That’s an understatement. But there’s a lot more tennis to play this year. His season will continue. So will this tournament. Albeit without the biggest star.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME tennis

The Women’s World Tennis No. 7 Got Asked to do a ‘Twirl’ By a Male Presenter

What was he thinking?

A reporter at the Australian Open is drawing a lot of flak for asking women’s world tennis no. 7 Eugenie Bouchard to “twirl” in a post-match interview on Wednesday, a request that embarrassed the young star and sparked a backlash on social media.

Channel 7 presenter Ian Cohen asked the 20-year-year Canadian to do a “twirl, like a pirouette,” and show off her pink outfit to the Melbourne crowd. Bouchard complied, albeit a little awkwardly.

“It was very unexpected,” she said in her post-match press conference. “I don’t know, an old guy asking you to twirl. It was funny.”

Others didn’t find it so amusing, though.

Bouchard, a Montreal native, is tipped as one of the rising stars of the sport after reaching the Wimbledon final last year, as well as the Australian and French Open semifinals. She defeated Kiki Bertens 6-0, 6-3 in less than an hour in Wednesday’s second-round encounter at Melbourne Park.

TIME tennis

Williams Sisters Withdraw From Doubles at Australian Open

Serena Williams of the U.S., celebrates after defeating Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium during their first-round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne on Jan. 20, 2015 Rob Griffith—AP

No explanation given

(MELBOURNE, Australia) — Serena and Venus Williams have pulled out of women’s doubles at the Australian Open, where they’ve won four titles.

The Williams sisters were scheduled to play their first-round match Wednesday against Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.

A tournament official confirmed the Williams sisters had withdrawn, but did not specify a reason.

Both sisters won their first-round singles matches in singles on Tuesday.

TIME tennis

Sharapova Saves Two Match Points to Beat Russian Qualifier Panova

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN
Russia's Maria Sharapova reacts during her women's singles match against Russia's Alexandra Panova at the 2015 Australian Open in Melbourne on Jan. 21, 2015 Paul Crock—AFP/Getty Images

MELBOURNE — No. 2 Maria Sharapova narrowly avoided the biggest upset of the tournament so far, saving two match points late in the third set to defeat No. 150 Alexandra Panova 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Sharapova cruised through the first set in just 26 minutes before Panova began to find her range. Coming into the tournament, the 25-year-old Russian qualifier never won a match in the main draw of a Slam, but for two sets Wednesday she played at a level more befitting for a Top 20 player. Powerful and rangy, she outserved Sharapova and matched her power from the baseline. Suddenly, Sharapova’s level dropped. She struggled to find her rhythm off the ground and on her serve. She hit just eight unforced errors in the first set but struck 43 in the remaining two sets.

After taking the second set 6-4, Panova raced to a 4-1 double-break lead in the final set. Sharapova was able to get one break back but Panova served for the match at 5-4. She saw her first match point at 40-30 but Sharapova came up with her first gutsy save of the day, gunning a forehand down the line winner that landed just in. Two points later Panova would earn her second match point. Sharapova stepped up to gun another forehand winner that left no margin for error. Demoralized after coming so close to pulling off the biggest win of her career, Panova was broken and didn’t win another game in the match. Sharapova broke for the win two games later after two hours and 32 minutes.

“I’m just happy to get through,” a relieved Sharapova said after the match. “I was two points from being out of the tournament. Just didn’t play my best today … I think she played a pretty inspired match.”

Panova played the best match of her career and finished with 20 winners to 36 unforced errors. Sharapova hit 38 winners to 51 unforced errors. Sharapova will play either No. 31 Zarina Diyas or Anna Schmiedlova in the third round.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

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