Melbourne, Australia (SportsNetwork.com) - Staring match point in the face, Maria Sharapova let lose a thunderous forehand and showed challenger Alexandra Panova why she's ranked No. 2 in the world.
Sharapova trailed 4-1 in the third set, staved off a pair of match points and survived for one of her most memorable comeback victories in an improbably entertaining second-round match at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
The match lasted 2 1/2 hours, the third set alone taking 68 minutes despite Panova jumping out to a commanding lead with a pair of breaks of Sharapova's serve.
Sharapova earned one back but trailed 5-4 and faced two match points. On the first, the five-time Grand Slam winner let loose a powerful winning forehand on a second serve that hugged the line. The second was a longer point also won by Sharapova with a forehand, and from there Panova wilted.
Sharapova won the game, held at love and quickly earned two match points of her own. She only needed one, as Panova was long at the end of a lengthy rally to secure Sharapova's 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory.
The 25-year-old Panova entered the season's first major as a qualifier and came in ranked 150th in the world. She lost all five of her previous Grand Slam matches before cruising past Sorana Cirstea on Monday.
Sharapova, who committed 51 unforced errors and six double faults, won this major tournament in 2008 and was twice a runner-up. The former World No. 1 exited in the fourth round last year.
Her next opponent No. 31 Zarina Diyas, who took out Anna Schmiedlova 3-6, 6-2, 8-6.
Other seeded winners were No. 10 Ekaterina Makarova, No. 14 Sara Errani, No. 21 Peng Shuai and No. 22 Karolina Pliskova.
American Christina McHale lost in straight sets to Carina Witthoeft, who advanced to set up a match against Irina-Camelia Begu.
Other second-round winners on Day 3 were: Lucie Hradecka, Julia Goerges, Yanina Wickmayer, Yaroslava Shvedova and Caroline Garcia.
Third-seeded French Open finalist Simona Halep and seventh-seeded Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard will also be in action on Wednesday.