Tennis: Gritty Sharapova digs deep before Federer pushes through

Maria Sharapova during her women's singles match against Alexandra Panova on day three of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 21, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Maria Sharapova during her women's singles match against Alexandra Panova on day three of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan 21, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP 

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Roger Federer was made to work for his place in the third round of tennis' Australian Open on Wednesday, after Maria Sharapova suffered a huge scare against a 150th-ranked qualifier as the heat rose at Melbourne Park.

Rod Laver Arena's centre court was ground zero for high drama early in the day, with Russian Sharapova finding herself two service breaks down at 4-1 in the deciding set against compatriot Alexandra Panova.

With the temperature rising above 32 degrees C, Sharapova showed ice in her veins, first clawing back to 5-4 and then clobbering a string of forehand winners to save two match-points in an exhilarating counter-attack.

With that, the belief drained quickly from her plucky 25-year-old opponent and after levelling with another smoking forehand down the line, second seed Sharapova closed out the match 6-1 4-6 7-5.

"When other things aren't working, maybe the mental side of things will help you out," the five-time grand slam champion told reporters. "Until the very end I still try to dictate, I still try to find my way."

Federer was forced to find his own way through in the third match at Rod Laver Arena after losing the first set to Italian Simone Bolelli.

The Swiss master was troubled by a painful injury to the little finger on his racquet hand and growled at a prying television camera when medical staff worried at it before the second set.

He shrugged it off, though, and marched on to a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over the 48th-ranked Bolelli, sealing the match with a rush to the net that would have pleased coach Stefan Edberg.

"It felt like a bee stung me," the 33-year-old second seed said of his finger problem. "I was like, 'this can't be possible'.

"I'd never had this pain before... Thankfully it wasn't so bad at the end."

Andy Murray had a far more serene outing on the second show-court at Margaret Court Arena, trouncing Marinko Matosevic 6-1 6-3 6-2 to retreat to the cool of the shade after 102 impressive minutes.

The Scot's win extended his unbeaten record against Australians to 10-0, deflating the crowd's joy slightly after 10 locals had made it past the first round across both the men's and women's draws.

"I think I moved pretty well today. I defended well, you know, which is something - if you want to win these tournaments, you need to defend well," said Murray, who next faces Portugal's Joao Sousa before a potentially mouth-watering clash against young gun Grigor Dimitrov.

The Bulgarian's heart may have been in his mouth had he watched his girlfriend Sharapova's match and the 10th seed also suffered a wobble in beating unseeded Slovakian Lukas Lacko 6-3. 6-7 (12-14), 6-3, 6-3.

Seventh seed Tomas Berdych had no such troubles, roaring forward with a straight-set demolition of Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer.

The evening session sees third seed Rafa Nadal play American Tim Smyczek on centre court for a place in the third round, with Canadian hope Eugenie Bouchard taking on Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.