With a French Open championship and a career Grand Slam in her pocket, Maria Sharapova entered the 2012 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Club in London, England as the prohibitive favorite.
The predictions of experts seemed to be spot-on as Sharapova ran rough-shod over her first round opponent, fellow Russian Anastasia Rodionova in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3.
Miss Sharapova seemed invincible and well on her way to back to back Grand Slam titles.
However, chinks in her proverbial armor began to appear when she took on Belgian, Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round.
Her trademark intensity and resolve appeared shaky and Sharapova began to allow Pironkova to dictate play and control the points.
Sharapova surrendered an early break and fell behind three games to love in the first set, then rallied to force a tie-break—a tie-break she won convincingly 7-3 to take the first set, 7-6.
The second set began with Sharapova serving her way to a 1-0 lead.
The powerful serve and phenomenal forehand that appeared to fail her early in the first set had been righted and she was dominant in the early going of the second set.
After Pironkova held serve, Sharapova took a 2-1 lead with a love service game, then promptly won a break point to go up 3-1 when play was suspended due to darkness.
Take nothing away from Pironkova, she played brilliantly in that first set. The 38th ranked player in the world has never won a WTA title, but does have 10 ITF wins to her credit and would love nothing more than to beat Sharapova and continue on at Wimbledon.
At the onset of the match, Pironkova looked to have all the answers, but unfortunately for her, Sharapova's renown competitiveness and championship heart took over and was just too much for the 24 year old from Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
When play resumes tomorrow, Sharapova will be serving for a 4-1 lead. That doesn't make it an automatic win as Pironkova came out strong early today, and could very well do the same tomorrow.
Pironkova could give the No. 1 ranked player in the world another scare and force a third set. Should Sharapova start flat again, it could make things extremely interesting in the continuation of fortnight at the greatest Grand Slam of all.
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