Sharapova faces tough Sugiyama test

Maria Sharapova, yet to drop a game so far this Championship, is bracing herself for a tough third-round clash with veteran Ai Sugiyama on Saturday.

Maria Sharapova, yet to drop a game so far this Championship, is bracing herself for a tough third-round clash with veteran Ai Sugiyama on Saturday.

The 20-year-old former champion has won both previous meetings, including a quarter-final during her triumphant run to the title three years ago, but Sharapova had to come from a set down each time and is preparing for another difficult test.

“It was a pretty tough match but that was a long time ago and this is going to be a new one,” said Sharapova of her 5-7 7-5 6-1 Centre-Court win in 2004.

“She’s a fighter and she’s feisty. She gets a lot of balls back. I’ll definitely need to be looking to come into the net more.”

Sugiyama, 31, is making a 15th successive trip at Wimbledon and has yet to improve on her quarter-final appearance three years ago.

“It was a really good experience,” she recalled. “I had a couple of chances but I couldn’t get it so this time I’ll try my best and see how it goes.”

Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo opens proceedings on Centre Court against Italy’s Mara Santangelo, whom she defeated in Eastbourne last week, while former winner Venus Williams faces a potential Court Two upset against another tough Japanese player Akiko Morigami.

Williams survived a scare on the “graveyard of champions” in her first-round match against Alla Kudryavtseva, of Russia, and Morigami is determined not to be overawed against the three-time title holder.

“I’m just going to play my game and just don’t think about my opponent,” she said. “I will just focus on my game and we’ll see how it goes.”

Morigami has never been past the third round in five previous appearances at Wimbledon but pulled off a shock in the last round by putting out 13th seed Dinara Safina.

Martina Hingis, who won the title in 1997, became another casualty of the graveyard of champions when she was bundled out by unseeded American Laura Granville.

The 26-year-old Hingis, who has been struggling to recover from the hip injury which forced her to miss the French Open, lost 6-4 6-2 to the world number 77, her first defeat by the American.

Eighth seed Anna Chakvetadze was another notable casualty on day five, losing to rising star Michaella Krajicek in three sets.

Krajicek, the 18-year-old sister of former Wimbledon champion Richard, won 7-6 6-7 6-2 to reach the fourth round of a grand-slam event for the first time and will meet Granville for a place in the quarter-finals.

Elsewhere, second seed Justine Henin eased past Elena Vesnina, of Russia, 6-1 6-3 and has dropped just 11 games in her first three matches.

Former champion Serena Williams was equally dismissive of Milagros Sequera, winning 6-1 6-0, but world number three Jelena Jankovic was involved in an epic battle with a limping Lucie Safarova, eventually prevailing 5-7 7-6 6-2.

Jankovic now meets 18th seed Marion Bartoli, of France, who beat Israel’s 16th seed Shahar Peer 6-3 6-2.

Tenth seed Daniela Hantuchova was forced to come from behind in her match with Katarina Srebotnik to book a fourth-round meeting with Serena Williams.

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