Maria Sharapova has only played six matches since she withdrew from the 2013 U.S. Open. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Maria Sharapova admitted she's a little bit rusty after scraping past Alize Cornet 6-1, 7-6 (6) in the third round of the Australian Open. After struggling with her timing and control throughout the straight-set win, Sharapova hit the practice court after her match to get more repetitions in.
The No. 3-seed hasn't been in the most convincing form through her first three matches in Melbourne Park, due to her lack of match play. Since making the French Open final last June, Sharapova has played just six matches coming into the Australian Open due to a shoulder injury that shut down her season last August.
"I still feel like in certain situations I am a bit rusty and I'm not closing it out when I have to or maybe going for a little much or overthinking it a bit," Sharapova said after her match. "That will come. I'm not worried about that. As long as I feel like I'm doing the right things and I'm playing the way I want to play, if I'm making those types of errors, they are going to go in eventually."
Sharapova hit 35 unforced errors over two sets against Cornet, with 29 of them coming in the second set alone. Two days ago she hit 67 unforced errors in a three set win over No. 44 Karin Knapp. This has been a far cry from her dominant run of form last year in Melbourne, where she dropped just four games through her first three matches.
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"I think I can take a few positives from this match," she said. "One being the fact that I was able to win it not playing my best tennis. There are definitely things I'm going to have to improve and do better moving forward, because it only is going to get tougher.
Next up for Sharapova is No. 20-seed Dominika Cibulkova, who blew past Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-0 earlier in the day. The two have never played on hard court, though the 24-year old Slovakian has beaten Sharapova twice on clay.
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"She likes to make it physical," Sharapova said when asked to analyze the match-up. "That's when she plays her best. Obviously I don't want to go there with her."