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Sharapova praises players’ Tokyo commitment

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Originally published on: 27/09/11 10:03

Maria Sharapova swept past Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-2 7-5 to reach the third round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.

The Russian took the first set in half an hour and blunted a comeback in the second set from her Thai opponent, who had broken back to 5-5 after falling 3-0 behind, breaking in the 11th game before firing down an ace on her ensuing service game to see out the victory.

“I served really well today,” said Sharapova. “It was important for me to serve well because she reads the ball really well. I had a bit of letdown in the second set. She started playing really well. I was glad I was able to come back and win in two sets.”

The win provides a handy boost for the Russian, who fell to Flavia Pennetta in the third round of the US Open despite winning in Cincinnati in her previous event.

Following the world No.2 into the third round were Marion Bartoli, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, and Sharapova, for one, was pleased that her fellow players have supported the Japenese tournament in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

“The commitment the players have shown is incredible,” said Sharapova. “With nearly a full draw, I think the players have shown their dedication.”

There was initial concern from some players about travelling to the tournament because of fears of radiation leaks from a nuclear power plant damaged by the tsunami. The facility was abandoned after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake that left 20,000 people dead or missing.

“There was definitely a lot of talk before the tournament, a lot of players having concerns whether it’s safe to come here,” said Sharapova. “I know that a few actually didn’t come here because they were a little bit scared.”

Though she did not have to make the decision in the end because of injury, Kim Clijsters admitted in the spring that she would hesitate to go to Tokyo because of radiation fears, while three other players – Francesca Schiavone, Yanina Wickmayer and Sara Errani – all withdrew for personal reasons, while Serena Williams pulled out for medical reasons.

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