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Sharapova, Federer advance as tournament cools off

MELBOURNE, Australia — Maria Sharapova recovered from the longest, hottest match of her career to beat Alize Cornet 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) today and reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Her third-round match was played in high humidity but in temperatures of about 72 degrees, considerably cooler than the scorching 108 conditions she endured for 3 hours, 28 minutes in her second-round win over Karin Knapp two days previously.

Again, though, Sharapova struggled to close out. She took 50 minutes between her first and last match points against Knapp, and she needed almost a half-hour to finish off Cornet.

In the next match at Rod Laver Arena, Roger Federer — after a detour to Hisense Arena in the second round — had a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 win over Teymuraz Gabashvili.

Federer is seeded sixth after a year in which he didn't reach a Grand Slam final for the first time since 2002. His wife, Mirka, and their twin daughters were in the arena watching against Gabashvili. The couple is expecting another child later in the year, something Federer sees as a good omen.

"The last time (Mirka) was pregnant, I played fairly well, won the French and Wimbledon," he said, in reference to 2009, "so lots of pressure there."

Federer plays either 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or No. 18 Gilles Simon in his next match.

Sharapova is slowly finding her groove in her second tournament back after a prolonged break for a right shoulder injury. She had six double faults and 29 of her total 35 unforced errors in the second set after breezing through the first against Cornet.

"After the last match I'm just happy to get through this," Sharapova said. "Definitely need to step it up. I was lucky to get through the other day, now that I'm in the second week, I'm level."

Sharapova next plays Dominika Cibulkova, who beat No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-0.

No. 13 Sloane Stephens, who had an upset win over Serena Williams in the quarterfinals last year, reached the fourth round at a fifth consecutive major with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Elina Svitolina.

Sharapova, Federer advance as tournament cools off 01/17/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 18, 2014 12:02am]
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