Maria Sharapova will face the new hero of American tennis for the second year running at the US Open after booking her place in the third round at Flushing Meadows.
Sharapova beat Iveta Benesova 6-1 6-2 in just 66 minutes in the second round to set up a last-32 clash with home favourite Beatrice Capra, the 18-year-old having earlier put out France’s Aravane Rezai, the 18th seed.
In the third round last year Sharapova, the 2006 champion, came up against Melanie Oudin and lost in three sets as the 17-year-old went on to reach the quarter-finals.
This time the 23-year-old Russian, the 14th seed, will take on Capra for a place in the last 16 after the 18-year-old, who is making her main tour debut in New York, made the most of claiming a place in the tournament by winning an eight-woman USTA wild card play-off.
Capra, ranked a lowly 371st in the world, admitted: “Melanie is such an inspiration to me. Last year I watched every match of hers.
“I played her the year before in the juniors and then there she was, making the quarter-finals of the US Open.
“I don’t even want to think about playing Sharapova right now,” Capra added.
“But it would be so amazing if I got to play on Arthur Ashe Stadium. I can’t believe that I just won my first two matches here.
“I’m just overwhelmed, I’m so excited. I was so nervous going out there but I had a lot of support and I think that helped me get through today.”
Sharapova, whose career has been disrupted by a serious shoulder injury, said: “It’s really nice to be on court and go out there and not have to worry about anything but having to win.
“At this point last year I am sure I had the same feelings but when you look back you know you were not quite there, your game was not there and you were not ready physically.”
Top seed Caroline Wozniacki, who could face Capra in the fourth round, wasted no time in reaching the last 32, hammering Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei 6-0 6-0 in just 47 minutes.
Wozniacki, who lost to Kim Clijsters in last year’s final, has dropped just two games in her first two matches, but believes she already has plenty of tough matches under her belt after compiling a 14-1 win-loss record in four events since Wimbledon.
“I’ve been playing really great tennis, I’m feeling good so no worries,” Wozniacki said.
“It’s just about winning and getting through to the next rounds. As long as I win it doesn’t really matter what the match looks like.”
Fourth seed Jelena Jankovic came through a tough clash with former Wimbledon semi-finalist Mirjana Lucic, Jankovic winning 6-4 3-6 6-2 as Lucic made almost 60 unforced errors.
Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva also moved into the third round with victory over Germany’s Sabine Lisicki.
Russia’s Zvonareva cruised through the opening set but had to come back from a break down in the second to secure a 6-1 7-6 (7/5) victory after Lisicki served for the set at 5-4.
“I always believe in myself, I always believe if I am playing my best tennis I can beat anyone on the other side of the net,” said seventh seed Zvonareva, who lost to Serena Williams in her first Grand Slam final at the All England Club.
“I’m trying to take it one match at a time, there are a lot of tough opponents but I am trying to enjoy my game and do my best and we will see where it’s going to take me.”
Former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova had no trouble in beating Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova 6-2 6-3, while Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer beat Julia Goerges 6-4 7-5, but 22nd seed Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez lost in straight sets to Switzerland’s Patty Schnyder.