Fifth seed Maria Sharapova has progressed to the fourth round of the Australian Open with a hard-fought win over American Lauren Davis.
Sharapova dominated the first set but then had to see off a stern challenge from Davis, currently ranked No.103 in the world, before prevailing 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena.
The five-time grand slam champion lost just two points on her serve in the first set while breaking Davis twice, but her touch deserted her in the second as the American warmed to her task.
A 27-shot rally was the highlight of a tense tiebreak, taken by a dogged Davis, but that was the end of her challenge.
Sharapova got back into a groove with her service game and put the pressure back on her opponent’s serve, which was broken three times on her way to a bagel.
The Russian right-hander will meet 12th seed Belinda Bencic in the fourth round after the Swiss teen scored a 4-6 6-2 6-4 win over Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko.
Appearing in her third Open, Bencic struggled early to find her rhythm on Rod Laver Arena on Friday.
But she regrouped to become the first player through to the fourth round in the women’s draw, a career-best for her at Melbourne Park.
“Definitely today it was a hard piece of work for me,” Bencic said.
“What I did in the first set wasn’t enough, so I knew I had to play much better in the second and third sets.
“I still tried to believe even though it wasn’t perfect in the first set.”
It was the first women’s match to go to three sets on Rod Laver Arena at this Open, with Bencic converting her third match point in just under two hours.
Bondarenko, a former world No.29, was contesting her first Australian Open since 2012 after taking time off to have a baby.