British No.2 Heather Watson crashed out of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in three sets following a spirited display against Maria Sharapova in Tokyo.

After beating German Sabine Lisicki in round one, Watson took on the world No.2 Sharapova in a repeat of the pair's clash at last year's US Open.

Watson possessed a greater challenge to the Russian than she did on her Flushing Meadows debut in 2011, and was looking to replicate the pattern of the pair's match 13 months ago by claiming a first set advantage.

Heather Watson
Watson's brave performance wasn't enough to keep Sharapova out. Reuters

Two early breaks contributed to Watson's early success, with a spate of Sharapova errors seeing her hopes slide in the opening exchanges.

The four-time grand slam champion quickly asserted her authority however, taking the match to a tie break with a pair of lighting breaks.

But it was the Brit who kept her nerve, winning the tie-break 9-7 to claim the first set advantage as she continued from where she left off against Lisicki.

The helter-skelter nature of the match continued in the second set, with the first four games all breaks of serve, as both players struggled for a foot hold in the match.

Sharapova eventually hit the front in the seventh game, as Watson began to become overawed by the world No.1's powerful baseline hitting.

Watson's resilience and ability to mix up her ground strokes saw her hold for 3-5, but Sharapova breezed through her service game to level the match.

The match looked like heading Sharapova's way as she claimed an early break, and despite Watson battling to break back, an eighth game break, with the 25 year old's backhand again proving potent, all but her sealed passage to round three.

Despite 14 unforced errors in the three-hour marathon, Sharapova eventually prevailed and will face Lucie Safarova for a place in the quarter finals.

Having seen fellow Brit Laura Robson rise to 57th in the world after she reached the Guangzhou Open final over the weekend, the defeat of Lisicki and the closely run contest against Sharapova represents a decent week's work for the 20 year old Watson, who said afterwards she was delighted to gather more experience.

"It was a tough three-setter, very physical, but I went out there to win and I gave it everything I had," she told The Tennis Space. I maybe didn't take advantage of winning that close first set and trying to get ahead quick in the second. But I've gained more experience today, I know what I need to do, I know where I stand, I know what I need to improve.

"I'm glad I contended hard with her but obviously it was unfortunate that I didn't come out with the win, I really wanted it. As long as I keep getting closer and closer I'm happy.

"I've been working on playing more aggressive and coming to the net more, I like to volley, I am good at volleying. I probably didn't do it as much as I should have done today but that's what I've been working on and I'm going to keep to it, because that's how you beat the top players, by winning the points and not waiting for them to miss."