Maria Sharapova has advanced to the fourth round of the ladies’ singles after bulldozing her way past Alison Riske in one hour and nine minutes on a day beset by bad weather.
Earlier in the week, the No.5 seed had suggested the 23-year-old, whom she had beaten in their only previous meeting on grass, in Birmingham four years ago, would be a tricky opponent.
"She stays down really low, hits really flat from both sides and has had steady results on the surface. It's going to be a challenge,” the Russian had warned.
Although Sharapova suffered an initial minor hiccup - she was broken in the opening game of the first set – she never faced a break point again and promptly rattled off 11 games on the trot to triumph 6-3, 6-0 in little over an hour. The second set lasted just 27 minutes.
Fortunately for the spectators, there were plenty of other things to keep them occupied during the whitewash.
Although the Centre Court roof had been closed during Rafael Nadal's match, the fans still pointed, took pictures and commented on the sound of the rain lashing down.
The presence of a certain chap called David Beckham in the Royal Box also prompted fervent finger-pointing and camera clicking.
The footballer’s attendance did not go unnoticed by the five-time Grand Slam title holder who has met him a couple of times.
“He's a great guy,” Sharapova said. “I mean, besides being an incredible football player, he has so much that he's done in his career, having a family, maintaining so many things off the court. Really nice person to chat to.
“We're not best buddies or anything, but it's nice to be able to say hello and congratulate each other on achievements we've had in our careers and so on.”
During the match both women hit serves that hovered around the 90mph mark, both belted low, flat balls that resulted in blistering baseline rallies and both let out an almighty shriek every time they did so. While Sharapova’s grunt was long and exaggerated, Riske’s was a lower pitched, shorter but equally aggressive sounding ‘aieee’ and each one was amplified by the covered arena.
A double fault in the opening game did not help Sharapova’s cause and when Riske hit a penetrating shot at her opponent's feet, it was all Maria could do to dig up the ball and balloon it long on break point.
The blip proved momentary. After levelling the match in the sixth game the 27-year-old, who won Wimbledon a decade ago, moved up a gear. She hit 25 winners in total, including a favoured forehand down the line on match point.
Sharapova was asked if she had any superstitions or routines. “I think I always take a few seconds in between the points and go back and kind of fiddle around with my strings," she said. "I think it's always nice when you're in front of thousands of people, whether you're in a good moment or bad moment, to kind of gather your thoughts. That's sort of something I've done for a really long time. I keep doing it.”
Sharapova has dropped only seven games on her way to the fourth round and, with top seed and nemesis Serena Williams out of the competition, her eyes will be fixed on the prize.
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