Maria Sharapova was made to work hard for her place in the Wimbledon third round on Thursday by an opponent she said would be in the world's top five if every tournament was on grass.Tsvetana Pironkova took advantage of three double faults by the top seed in the second set tiebreak before Sharapova roared through the third in 29 minutes to seal a 7-6, 6-7, 6-0 victory in a match held over from Wednesday. "If she played on grass 365 days a year she'd be top five probably," Sharapova said of her Bulgarian opponent who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2010 and the quarters last year. "Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. She always does really well against top players. She really rises to the occasion."
The 24-year-old Pironkova, ranked 38th in the world, won the first two games of the match on Wednesday and caused Sharapova problems with her powerful serve and speed around the court.
"Every time I play against her and every time I see her face a tough opponent, especially here, she plays extremely well," said Sharapova, who served 10 double faults.
The world No 1, Wimbledon champion in 2004, made 30 unforced errors but showed flashes of the form that took her to the French Open title this month with 37 winners, mainly with her booming forehand.
Making a mockery
Maria Sharapova mocked Frenchman Gilles Simon on Thursday for saying women do not deserve the same prize money as men, pointing out dryly that many more people watched her matches than his.
Sharapova, the top seed at Wimbledon, said after reaching the third round by beating Tsvetana Pironkova that women had fought long and hard to win equal pay in tennis.
"It was a big challenge and nobody supported us," the world number one said. "It's been a few years since we have gotten that. We're all really proud of it and we continue to build the sport and make it bigger.
"I'm sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his."
Serena Williams also pitched into the row.
"She's way hotter than he is," quipped the American in reference to her great Russian rival.Young guns boom
Japan's Kei Nishikori and Belgian wildcard David Goffin offered further evidence that size doesn't matter on Thursday as two advanced impressively to the third round.
Goffin looked only a little older than the eager ball boys scampering around Court 14 during his 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 defeat of American Jesse Levine.
Nishikori, the elder of the two at 22, had a resounding 6-3. 7-5. 6-2 win over Florent Serra.