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Maria Sharapova cruises into 4th

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Two days made a world of difference for Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open.

Sharapova needed just 61 minutes to beat Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas 6-1, 6-1 on Friday, ensuring there were no match-point worries this time.

On Wednesday, No. 2-ranked Sharapova faced two match points but escaped with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 win over fellow Russian Alexandra Panova, a qualifier ranked No. 150.

Against Diyas, Sharapova won the first set in 26 minutes and was broken to open the second, but responded by winning the next six in a dominant roll.

"I think I rebounded really well," Sharapova said. "I had a good hit yesterday and just kind of thought a little bit about what I wanted to try to achieve tonight no matter who I played.

"I tried to be a bit more aggressive ... she can be a tough, tough player to play against if you give her the time to charge down the line like she likes to do, step down and hit flat, low. So she has that capability."

Sharapova will try to be as dominant versus her next opponent, Peng Shuai of China, a six-time WTA finalist who has never broken through for a tournament win.

Peng is a natural right-hander who hits two-handed on both sides. Sharapova has a 4-1 record against Peng, whose only win came in Beijing in 2009. This is the third time they will meet in a Grand Slam tournament -- Sharapova won in straight sets at Wimbledon in 2011 and the French Open in 2012.

No. 21-ranked Peng, who earlier beat Yaroslava Shvedova 7-6 (7), 6-3, made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon last year and the semifinals at the U.S. Open.

"We've always had good matches," Sharapova said. "She's had great success in the last few Slams. She's a bit of an untraditional player with two hands on both sides. That's a little tricky. But I enjoy playing against her."

A win on Sunday could give Sharapova a quarterfinal against seventh-seeded Eugenie Bouchard, the other highly ranked player in her quarter of the draw.

The top half of Sharapova's draw still features No. 3-seeded Simona Halep, meaning Sharpova could meet the Romanian in the semifinals, a repeat of their French Open final last year won by Sharapova.

Halep advanced with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Bethanie Mattek-Sands, missing twice while serving for the match in the eighth and 10th games before finally serving out.

"Here I started last year to play my best tennis. I (reached) my first quarterfinal in Grand Slams ... then I made final in French Open," Halep said. "I have more confidence now during Grand Slams and I believe I have my chance at every tournament."

Halep, who opened the season by winning the Shenzhen Open in China, next plays Yanina Wickmayer, who beat No. 14-seeded Sara Errani 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

It was Wickmayer's second win over a seeded player in three rounds.

Eugenie Bouchard struggled through a scrappy opening set before emerging with a 7-5, 6-0 third-round win over Caroline Garcia that featured 10 breaks of serve.

Six of the first eight games featured service breaks, and there were seven overall in the first set.

"Yeah, I don't think it was the prettiest tennis out there," said Bouchard, 20, who reached the semifinals in her first trip to Melbourne Park last year and went on to make the semifinals or better at two of the other three majors in a breakthrough season. "But I'm happy that I just kept going. Even if it wasn't going so well, I was able to turn it around."

Garcia managed to hold serve only twice in the match in Rod Laver Arena.

No. 10 Ekaterina Makarova advanced earlier with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 22 Karolina Pliskova.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.