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Serena impressed by Sharapova's rebirth

MARIA SHARAPOVA was set to take one step closer to her first Wimbledon title in eight years today if she overcame Tsvetana Pironkova in her second-round clash on Court One, the third match on the schedule of the court.

Sharapova looked in imperious form as she cruised past Anastasia Rodionova on Centre Court on Monday, and has a 3-0 record over Pironkova, but will be wary of the tricky Bulgarian who reached the last four here two years ago.

Sharapova, the number one seed, saw two of her main rivals for the Venus Rosewater dish move in to round two yesterday.

Serena Williams, seeking her fifth SW19 title, succeeded where sister Venus failed by making it through with a straight-sets victory against Czech player Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Serena admits she has been impressed by the way Sharapova has rebuilt her game to move back to the top of the rankings.

"She had a lot of issues and it took her about five years to get back so I am really proud and happy for her," she said.

"I looked up to that because I've had some issues myself. I'm a year back and I'm already in the top 10. I'm trying to do like she does and just keep going."

Defending champion Petra Kvitova overcame a wobble to beat world number 96 Akgul Amanmuradova 6-4 6-4.

Her Uzbek opponent had Kvitova in trouble at 4-2 adrift in the first set, but she then won six successive games before closing out a rain-affected match.

"I was nervous," Kvitova said. "It was the first time for me to play as the defending champion of a grand slam.

"It was a huge honour to come to Centre Court and I wanted to make people happy but it's not that easy.

"But I'm happy that I stayed calm inside and did not panic during the important points."

Second seed Victoria Azarenka breezed past American 22-year-old Irina Falconi on Court One and her compatriot Christina McHale won her marathon match against Johanna Konta 6-7 (7/4) 6-2 10-8.

Elsewhere today, Kim Clijsters was hoping she could make it in to the third round of her last Wimbledon when she faced Czech Andrea Hlavackova second on Centre Court.