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Ruthless Sharapova continues smooth progress

By Clare Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - There is a steely look about Maria Sharapova as she talks about focus, concentration and looking to the future, not the past.

The 27-year-old former champion was dumped out of Wimbledon in the second round last year by Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito and was keen to avoid humiliation again on Thursday.

So it was with business-like efficiency that the Russian dispatched Swiss qualifier Timea Bacsinszky 6-2 6-1 in an hour on Thursday on her way to the third round.

"You try to just focus a little bit more on executing better and not letting your focus go," Sharapova told reporters. "That's been important in the last couple of matches."

For the French Open champion, getting the small things right matters a great deal, such as adjusting to the different feel of Wimbledon's practice surfaces compared with its tournament courts, never mind the adjustment from Paris clay to London grass.

"The first couple of days are always the most dangerous in terms of the difference between the two and the footing," Sharapova said. "I wasn't very successful at the transition last year but I feel quite well this year."

On Thursday, the fifth seed showed the sort of ruthless precision that won her the French Open title this month. She broke Bacsinszky's serve five times, forcing her opponent to scramble left and right to retrieve powerful groundstrokes.

Sharapova, the world's highest-earning sportswoman, moved with economical ease on Court One and has completed two rounds for the loss of only four games. She is quite happy to keep her appearances short.

"I had four three-set matches at Roland Garros. It was quite a long battle. I'm going to take these as much as I can," she said.

Sharapova refused to compare her performance to that of the 17-year-old who won Wimbledon 10 years ago and rocketed to a life of celebrity and wealth.

"I don't compare my game to what it was yesterday or the year before or 10 years ago," she said.

"I always look ahead and I always try to challenge myself to be better than I am today."

Sharapova next meets world number 44 Alison Riske of the United States on Saturday.

"Her game matches up with grass extremely well," said the Russian. "She stays down really low, hits really flat from both sides and has had steady results on the surface.

"It's going to be a challenge...I look forward to playing her."

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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