STUTTGART, Germany - Two days after an absolutely grueling three-hour, 23-minute first round win over Lucie Safarova, Maria Sharapova regrouped and cruised past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, beating her countrywoman in straight sets, 64 63.
The pressure is definitely on Sharapova this week - not only is she the two-time defending champion in Stuttgart, but she needs to reach the semifinals of the Premier-level event to keep her spot in the Top 10, an elite she hasn't left in more than three years. And dangerous early round opponents like Safarova and Pavlyuchenkova - both opponents she has lost to before - didn't really help the cause.
In fact Pavlyuchenkova won their last meeting, another three-setter in Paris earlier this year.
The Turning Point
Pavlyuchenkova looked like she was going to be trouble again early on in the match, breaking in the opening game and holding serve to go up 2-0, but Sharapova kicked into gear right away, winning 10 of the next 13 games to build a hefty 64 41 lead. Pavlyuchenkova got the set back on serve, holding then breaking to close to 4-3, but the No.6-seeded Sharapova got one more break and served it out.
By The Numbers
Though she had a shaky start, by the end of the match Sharapova had some very tidy numbers going - she finished with a positive differential of +1, 22 winners to 21 unforced errors. Meanwhile, on the other side of the net, Pavlyuchenkova's game went awry after the early lead, as she finished with a negative differential of -10, 18 winners to 28 unforced errors, including a netted return on match point.
Awaiting Sharapova in the quarterfinals is No.1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Roberta Vinci in the first center court match of the day, 63 62. Sharapova leads Radwanska in their head-to-head series, 8-2, and has won both clay court meetings - one 6-0 in the third set, the other in straight sets.
"Well, Agnieszka is No.3 in the world and obviously someone who's been playing extremely well to be in that position," Sharapova said. "And I love these kinds of challenges. We've played each other many times, and there are certainly no secrets about each other's games. But I don't think we've played on clay in a while, so I look forward to improving all aspects of my game because she's playing well."