Sharapova advances but still searching for form

Sat Jan 18, 2014 1:22am EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova continued her erratic Australian Open campaign with a scratchy 6-1 7-6 (8-6) win over Alize Cornet that put her into the last 16 on Saturday but also sent her straight to the practice court in search of some sorely needed form.

Still rebuilding from a long layoff due to her troublesome right shoulder, Sharapova ran hot then cold against the 25th seeded Frenchwoman, her serve going awry in the hard-fought second set and only a late rally in the tiebreak saving the Russian from another potential marathon.

In her previous round, Sharapova had battled through the longest match of her career, a three-hour, 28-minute slug-fest against unseeded Italian Karin Knapp, played out on a 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) day.

Fatigue might have been a tempting excuse, but the Russian could hardly have used it, having felt fit enough to head back out on the court after a quick rest to iron out some worrying creases in her game.

"I just didn't have a great rhythm," Sharapova, seeded third, told reporters after bludgeoning 35 unforced errors and landing only half of her first serves.

"It's sometimes nice just to be able to come off the court and groove, just to get a good hit on the ball.

"I still feel like in certain situations I am a bit rusty and I'm not closing it out when I have to or maybe going for a little much or overthinking it a bit.

"That will come. I'm not worried about that. Those are the - as long as I feel like I'm doing the right things and I'm playing the way I want to play, if I'm making those types of errors, they are going to go in eventually."   Continued...

Maria Sharapova of Russia hits a return to Alize Cornet of France during their women's singles match at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 18, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray