Tokyo: Maria Sharapova pushed the envelope on ‘winning ugly’ as she squeaked past British qualifier Heather Watson 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the last 16 of the Pan Pacific Open on Tuesday.
The French Open champion’s performance bordered on the farcical at times, carelessly frittering away three set points to surrender the initiative before pulling off an escape act.
Li Na, last year’s Roland Garros winner, shrugged off a nasty cough to beat Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 and reach the third round.
In women’s doubles, Sania Mirza and Nuria Llagostera Vives made a shock first round exit after losing to Darija Jurak and Katalin Marosi. The second seed Indo-Spanish pair lost 0-6, 6-4, 8-10 to the Croatian-Hungary pair.
Second seed Sharapova left herself with work to do after a string of double-faults and horror misses gift-wrapped the first set tie-break to Watson 9-7.
The errors continued to mount but the Russian, her squealing growing increasingly louder with the effort, did just enough to restore parity by winning the second set.
A forehand miss gave Sharapova the break for 4-3 in the decider and the two-time Tokyo champion crawled over the line with a big forehand after three hours, nine minutes.
“I definitely felt rusty today,” said Sharapova, who served 14 double-faults and finished with 67 unforced errors. “It’s one of those matches you’re just happy to get through.”