Melbourne, Jan 21: A flustered Maria Sharapova survived a huge scare to advance at the Australian Open on Wednesday with Roger Federer making lighter work of the gruelling Melbourne conditions to keep his Grand Slam dreams alive.
The second seeded Russian had a meltdown as the heat was turned up and had to dig deep to save two match points before staging an epic comeback to beat courageous compatriot Alexandra Panova 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.
World number two Federer also had a wobble, dropping the first set before bouncing back to trounce Italian Simone Bolelli 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
British sixth seed Andy Murray had an easier time, cruising into the third round with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 drubbing of local hope Marinko Matosevic.
Other seeds progressing included men's seventh seed Tomas Berdych, 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov, and women's 10th seed Ekaterina Makarova.
Third seed Rafael Nadal was in action later Wednesday, with world number ones Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic playing their second round matches on Thursday.
While the searing 42 Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) heat of last year has yet to materialise in Melbourne, temperatures reached 33C and players, including Sharapova and Murray, draped ice towels around their shoulders at the changeovers.
Sharapova, who can unseat Williams as world number one if she wins the title, wilted badly after winning the opening set, firing a slew of unforced errors that almost had her on an early plane home.
"I didn't actually want to be out here for two-and-a-half hours but that's sometimes the way it goes on days when you're not playing your best -- sometimes it's good enough just to get through," she said.
"I was one point away from being out of this tournament twice today and not playing my best tennis so I'm just happy I was able to win that last point." AFP