Zheng Gets Rematch, Sharapova Hangs On

Zheng Jie set up a third round with Serena Williams. The two played in the semifinals in 2008.

Published June 28, 2012 12:00

Zheng Gets Rematch, Sharapova Hangs On
Zheng Jie

LONDON, England - Two of the WTA's biggest stars battled into the third round of Wimbledon on Thursday, with Maria Sharapova finally putting away a grass court guru and Serena Williams stopping an on-fire qualifier.

The No.1-seeded Sharapova was leading Tsvetana Pironkova a set and 3-1 when play was suspended on Wednesday night due to darkness, and when they resumed Pironkova rallied to take the second set in a tie-break; but as has been her MO the last year and a half Sharapova kicked it into high gear in the third set, taking just 29 minutes to complete a 76(3) 67(3) 60 escape.

"Today I wanted to start off really well because I knew I was up a break, but it didn't go according to plan. I really served sloppy," Sharapova said. "In the third I changed it around. There wasn't anything specific I did - we were playing with the same balls, I played with the same racquet - I just told myself to do better."

Sharapova is now 21-1 in three-setters since the start of 2011, the only loss coming in the third round of last year's US Open to Flavia Pennetta.

Pironkova went into the match with five Top 5 wins to her name, including two on clay and three on grass - Venus Williams and Vera Zvonareva here in previous years, and Agnieszka Radwanska at Eastbourne last week.

"If she played on grass 365 days a year she'd be Top 5," Sharapova said. "It doesn't work that way, but she has the perfect game for it. She always does really well against top players - she really rises for the occasion. I haven't seen too many of her other matches but every time I play against her and every time I see her face a tough opponent, especially here, she plays extremely well."

Sharapova will next have a first-time meeting with Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-Wei. The 26-year-old Hsieh, who hits with two hands off both sides, won her first WTA title earlier this year at Kuala Lumpur, the second player from her country ever to win a WTA title (Wang Shi-Ting won six in the mid-1990s).

The No.6-seeded Williams followed Sharapova into the third round with a 61 64 win over Hungarian qualifier Melinda Czink. Czink had come from the qualies and scored the fastest win of the entire first round, 39 minutes - but Williams was just too strong, hitting 22 winners - including 10 aces - to eight errors.

"Serving-wise it was definitely better, more consistent. So it's something to be happy about," Williams said. "I feel really good. I'm always wanting to be so perfect that sometimes I want to do too much - it's something I'm working on.

"I play really well when I'm relaxed, so I've just got to get there."

Williams next plays No.25 seed Zheng Jie, who got some revenge with a 64 62 win over Aleksandra Wozniak - Wozniak had beaten her at Roland Garros.

Williams has beaten Zheng in all five of their previous meetings, though the last two have gone three sets. This is also a rematch of their semifinal match here in 2008, which Williams won in straight sets, albeit barely - Zheng, who was China's first Grand Slam semifinalist, had set point in the second set.

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