Sharapova, Pennetta and Bouchard progress
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Twice winner Maria Sharapova and reigning champion Flavia Pennetta advanced to the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, though in sharply contrasting fashion.
Russian Sharapova, the second seed, made a fast start to overpower Belgian Yanina Wickmayer early on but then ran into much stiffer resistance before grinding out a 6-1 7-5 win after one hour and 45 minutes of baseline battle.
Fifteenth-seeded Italian Pennetta overcame an initial bout of nerves to finish strong as she launched her title defense with a commanding 6-4 6-2 win over American Madison Brengle in the first match of the day on the stadium court.
Sharapova, champion at Indian Wells in 2006 and 2013, broke Wickmayer's serve three times to sweep through the opening set in just over half an hour, a crunching forehand crosscourt winner putting her ahead 6-1.
However, the Belgian was a very different proposition in the second set which went comfortably with serve until a marathon 10th game where Wickmayer saved four match points before holding to level at 5-5.
Sharapova held serve to lead 6-5 and finally converted a sixth match point in the 12th when the Belgian hit a backhand long.
"She's a tough opponent," world number two Sharapova said in a courtside interview. "She hits the ball quite hard and has an unbelievable serve. I started the match well but the second set was a different story."
The Russian will next meet Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who brushed aside Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 6-2 6-4. Continued...