Sony Open

Maria Sharapova reaches Sony Open semifinals

 

Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic won their quarterfinal matches to set up one of Thursday’s two women’s semifinals.

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

Maria Sharapova continued her journey Wednesday toward what she hopes will be her first Sony Open title, though she stretched the match a bit too long for her liking.

Credit seventh-ranked opponent Sara Errani of Italy for the roadblock that consisted of three set points against world No. 2 Sharapova, who was up one set and serving at 4-5 in the second set. The game, during which Sharapova double faulted twice and kept the audience on Stadium Court intermittently cheering and groaning, finally ended when the long, leggy Russian blasted an inside-out forehand winner.

Two games later, Sharapova had won her quarterfinal 7-5, 7-5 to advance to her fifth semifinal in Key Biscayne since 2005.

“To begin with, I don’t feel like I should have been in that position,” Sharapova, 25, said when it was suggested that she is defined by her aggressiveness under pressure. “It’s great that I got myself out of it, but, you know, I don’t think I should have been there.

“I was up a break. I had my chances. I was up 30-love on my serve, and those are the type of games against these types of opponents you need to buckle down and win. Of course it’s great that I was able to come back, but I felt like I made things much more difficult than they should have been.”

With well-rested world No. 1 Serena Williams and defending women’s champion Agnieszka Radwanska set to play Thursday’s late-night semifinal, Sharapova’s 1 p.m. semifinal opponent was decided on a crisp, 62-degree night Wednesday at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park.

No. 22 seed Jelena Jankovic defeated No. 15 Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3.

“It’s a great win,” Jankovic said. “It was very tough and I was really frustrated at times, but I’m happy I was able to pull this match through. It’s great to be in the semifinals here again. Really looking forward to [Thursday].”

Jankovic, 28, of Serbia, is making her 11th appearance in Miami’s main draw. She lost to Williams in the 2008 final.

In the daytime quarterfinal, Errani, 25, tried to prevent Sharapova’s offensive punch by hitting deep groundstrokes to her backhand corner. But Sharapova eventually escaped.

“I had three chances,” Errani said. “I had set points. She played very good on those points. For sure it’s frustrating for me. I’m fighting a lot, running a lot, trying to play my best, but well done for her.”

Errani said Sharapova’s aggressive nature and hard-hitting, flat groundstrokes don’t give opponents much time to strategize.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” Errani said. “You don’t have the time [that you have] maybe with another player to think tactics and where to hit with her. The points are always very short, and you have to be ready.”

In Wednesday’s opening quarterfinal, Sharapova had 44 unforced errors and 13 double faults in a grueling two-and-a-half-hour match, with Errani adding 21 unforced errors.

“I had my chances,” Errani said.

The quarterfinal was a rematch of the 2012 French Open final. Sharapova won that one, too, to complete a career Grand Slam — the Australian, French, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Sharapova has now won 10 consecutive matches and 20 sets in a row. She indicated the difference between the Sony quarterfinal and the French final, in which the Russian won 6-3, 6-2, was that she when she led Wednesday, she didn’t always finish.

“I put a few points together pretty well,” she said, “and then either my concentration or my focus wasn’t there. … It’s nice to get through a match when you don’t feel like you’re playing your best because you have a chance to really improve in the next one.”

But it is the Sony that has eluded her, as she has fallen in the 2005, ’06, ’11 and ’12 finals there.

“With all the tournaments I have played,” Sharapova said, “this one I have been so successful at but yet haven’t won it. It would certainly mean a lot to me to go all the way.”

In Wednesday’s late-night men’s quarterfinal, Tommy Haas defeated Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1 to advance to a Friday semifinal against No. 3 seed David Ferrer of Spain.

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