NEW YORK, NY, USA - Maria Sharapova withstood a tenacious challenge from fellow wildcard Sofia Kenin to advance into the US Open fourth round, 7-5, 6-2.
"I definitely settled in after the second set," she said in her late-night press conference. "Just too many errors in the beginning of that match.
"Coming into this match playing two three-setters, I'm just happy I got it done in two. Give my body a little bit of a break, I guess."
Kenin was born in Russia but came to the United States at a young age, enjoying a phenomenal junior career and earning her spot into the main draw for a second straight year by winning the US Open wildcard challenge.
The 18-year-old made the most of the opportunity, upsetting No.24 seed Lauren Davis and surviving a third-set tie-break against fellow American Sachia Vickery to book the clash against Sharapova, whom she calls a childhood hero.
"She had really nice words for me in the locker room, which was really nice. I wasn't surprised with the way she came out and competed. She was down a few match points in the previous match. She's a grinder. She'll get many balls back. Despite not having the experience, she's a tough player. She's played a lot of matches this year. She's moving up the rankings. So I knew I had to be ready."
Sharapova was also a wildcard into this year's US Open, having not played a major tournament in 19 months, and had to battle into the third round after three-set victories over World No.2 Simona Halep and Timea Babos.
The pair took treated the night session crowd to an intruging battle, particularly in the first set, where Kenin battled back from a 1-4 deficit to keep within reach of causing the upset.
Sharapova held her nerve and converted her first set point opportunity behind a powerful forehand. Taking that momentum into the second set, the Russia withstood another surge from Kenin and won one of the best points of the tournament to ultimately secure victory after an hour and 42 minutes on court.
"I thought that rally ended two or three balls before it actually did. I think I hit a shot, then I almost felt like I turned around, and next thing I knew she got it back. Feel like she did that a couple of times.
"She has some wheels on her. Yeah, she made me hit another ball."
In all, Sharapova hit 38 winners to 33 unforced errors. While Kenin managed seven winners to 16 unforced errors, she nontheless broke serve three times and is set to earn a career-high ranking as the youngster closes in on the Top 100.
Sharapova is tentatively set to re-enter the Top 100, as well.
"The goal is to keep winning matches and, obviously, to keep improving. Even when I was young, ranking is just not something that I've focused on or paid attention to. Even when I hadn't been No. 1 in the world, it just wasn't really that big a goal of mine.
"The more matches you win, the more chances you have of getting a better ranking. That's my goal."
Standing between the 2006 champion and a spot in her first US Open quarterfinal since 2012 is No.16 seed Anastasija Sevastova, who made her major breakthrough at this very tournament last year, reaching the last eight with wins over Garbiñe Muguruza and Johanna Konta.
"I might be wrong, but I don't think I played her before. She's had a great year. A big game. I watched a little bit of the beginning of her match today, then turned it off to focus on mine. She serves well and, again, gets a lot of balls back. Uses the slice quite well.
"I'll get back on the practice court tomorrow and get ready for that one."