World number two Maria Sharapova got off to a successful start at the Indian Wells hardcourt tournament on Saturday, easing past Yanina Wickmayer 6-1, 7-5 on centre court.
The win sets up a mouth-watering match with former champion Victoria Azarenka, who advanced to the third round by beating Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-4 earlier in the day.
Both Sharapova and Azarenka are former world number ones and former Indian Wells champions.
The early marquee clash was made possible by Azarenka’s drop in ranking, due to a foot problem that has bothered her for the past year.
It will be the 14th meeting between the two Grand Slam champions, with Azarenka holding a 7-6 edge. Sharapova won their last contest at the 2013 French Open semi-finals.
“I think it will be a good challenge for both of us,” Sharapova said. “We have had some really good matches in the past, even though we haven’t played against each other in a while.”
Sharapova, who is seeking to become the first three-time women’s champion at Indian Wells, lost to Serena Williams in the final of the Australian Open in January. – Agence France-Presse