The showpiece match of the third round of the Australian Open in the women's draw occurred last night at Rod Laver Arena as Maria Sharapova battled past defending champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
The Russian recorded her finest win since returning from a 15-month drug suspension in 2017 while defeating Wozniacki for the first time on a hard court since 2013 to reach the fourth round in Melbourne for the first time in three years.
Sharapova storms back from early deficit to take first set
The much-anticipated clash seemed to be going the way of the reigning title holder as she survived a 16-point opening service game, fending off three break points to post an opening service hold.
She struck first in the fourth game as Sharapova essentially broke herself, missing a pair of forehands long to hand Wozniacki a 3-1 lead, which was extended to 4-1 after a hold by the Dane.
The Russian suddenly flipped the switch and got the set back on serve, breaking back in the seventh game. A hold to 15 levelled the opener at 4-4 and broke the next game, a forehand winner giving her a 5-4 edge.
On a run of four consecutive games won, Sharapova served for the first set and reached 40-0. After Wozniacki saved the first two, the 30th seed used her biggest weapon, her forehand, to put away the opening set.
Wozniacki responds to force a third set
The second set again saw Wozniacki get off to a fast start, breaking for a 2-0 lead after guiding a forehand down the line, drawing a weak response from Sharapova.
The Dane would be pegged back in the fifth game as the 2009 champion blasted a forehand winner crosscourt to get the set back on serve at 3-2.
Sharapova saved a break point in the eighth game but wasn't as fortunate when serving to stay in the set trailing 5-4. Facing set point, the Russian overhit a forehand to gift Wozniacki the second set.
Sharapova breaks twice in late stages to claim victory
The opening stages of the final set were dominated by the server as each woman held without a hint of trouble through the first six games. The seventh game would prove to decide the match.
After saving two break points, Wozniacki floated a backhand long to set up a third break chance for Sharapova, which the Russian grabbed with yet another forehand winner to take a 4-3 lead.
A love hold brought the Russian to within a game of victory and she held a match point in the next Wozniacki service game, but missed on a forehand. Given a second chance to close out the match, she made no mistake with a backhand that the defending champion had no answer for.