Maria Sharapova hits a forehand against Kirsten Flipkens (not pictured) on day eight of the Sony Open at Crandon Tennis Center. (USA TODAY Sports: Geoff Burke)
MIAMI — Fourth seed Maria Sharapova got a much-needed wake-up call after sleep-walking her way through the opening set before dispatching Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 3-6 6-4 6-1 on Monday to reach the Sony Open quarter-finals.
German fifth seed Angelique Kerber also needed three sets to get by Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 1-6 6-3.
Sharapova, playing the first match of the day on a drowsy and overcast centre court, appeared to have trouble getting up for her fourth-round clash, as did many of the ticket holders with only a few hundred spectators sprinkled across the quiet stadium as play began.
Flipkens, however, came ready to play and broke a misfiring Sharapova at the first opportunity and again to go up 4-0 with the help of back-to-back double faults from the Russian.
In the second set, a suddenly alert and focused Sharapova turned the tables on the 19th seeded Belgian as she raced in front 4-0 on a pair of breaks on way to leveling the match.
Trailing 3-1 in the third set, Flipkens had a glorious opportunity to get back into the contest after going up 0-40 on Sharapova’s serve but was unable to convert on any of her four break chances.
Sharapova, a five-time runner-up in Miami, weathered the storm then closed out the match by sweeping the next two games to reach the last eight.
Defending champion Andy Murray and 17-times grand slam winner Roger Federer sizzled under a Miami sun, speeding into the fourth round of the Sony Open on Sunday with convincing straight sets wins.
Federer, twice a winner on the Miami hardcourts, needed just 62 minutes on a sweltering center court to dispose of Dutch qualifier Thiemo De Bakker 6-3 6-3 while Murray appeared to be adjusting just fine to life without coach Ivan Lendl, easing past Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 6-4 6-1.
After getting the defense of his Sony Open title off to a shaky start with a three-sets win over Matthew Ebden on Friday, Wimbledon champion Murray was more in command against Lopez improving his record to 9-0 against the Spaniard in just 73 minutes.
“It’s not always that easy to feel comfortable against him because there is not loads of rhythm with the way he plays,” said the sixth seeded Scotsman. “But I moved well; returned well.
“It was obviously a more comfortable score line than the other day.”
Murray has been in the Miami spotlight for more than his play this week after announcing he had ended his successful partnership with Lendl, who helped steer him to a pair of grand slam titles and an Olympic gold medal.
Lendl, who maintains a Florida residence, was in the stand catching some of the Sunday match, leading Murray to joke that the two men were renewing their partnership.
Seven of Murray’s previous eight matches had gone three sets but the Briton, who has a Miami residence, made sure he would spend as little time as possible under a punishing sun, breaking Lopez three times in the second set, sweeping the last four games.
“It was really hot. I don’t know how hot it was but when we came over at like 9:30 it was already 80 Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) and it was extremely humid,” said Murray. “I have played a few matches here where it’s been very, very hot but it doesn’t always stay like this for a few days in a row in March.
“It’s not easy conditions.”
A resurgent Federer has shown that he is coming to grips with a new larger racquet, a change that the Swiss had resisted.
But Federer has seen improved results with the racquet, collecting his 78th career title in Dubai in February and reaching the final in Indian Wells to move back into the top five of the world rankings.
“I think it (the racquet) just gives me easier power, especially on the first serve,” said Federer. “And I think as time now goes by, I’m getting a better feel for how is the ball going to react, you know, how much spin do I need to put on to stay really accurate and put it really close to the line.
“But then again this wasn’t Andre Agassi on the other side, or Djokovic. It’s just important for me to keep that up and remind myself it’s going well so far.”
In other third round action, Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga advanced in contrasting fashion.
The ninth seeded Gasquet had easy passage beating 17th seeded South African Kevin Anderson 6-3 6-4 while 11th seeded Tsonga rallied for a 4-6 7-6(6) 7-5 win over Cypriot wildcard Marcos Baghdatis.
Spaniard Tommy Robredo, the 16th seed, advanced with a 6-3 6-4 win over Frenchman Julien Benneteau.