Millennium Post

Sharapova battles into Miami last-four

The grunts were long and loud in the final game, as if Maria Sharapova was pushing a couch across nearby Crandon Beach.

Trying to winning the Sony Open must feel that way to Sharapova, a four-time runner-up. She returned to the semifinals Wednesday despite a patchy performance, beating Sara Errani 7-5, 7-5.

Sharapova made 57 unforced errors, including 13 double-faults, and overcame three set points in the second set. The two sets took 2 1/2 hours, and a flurry of mistakes by both players left spectators groaning. Sharapova had the last laugh, whacking a forehand winner on match point.

‘She really made me work for this match,’ Sharapova said. ‘I had to dig deep - so many opportunities, a few ups and downs. I’m definitely happy to get through another one.’ Seeded No. 3, she’ll play Thursday against the winner of the quarterfinal Wednesday night between No. 15-seeded Roberta Vinci and No. 22 Jelena Jankovic.

She faced Errani in a rematch of last year’s French Open final, which Sharapova won to complete a career Grand Slam. But she has never won Key Biscayne, losing the final in 2005, ‘06, ‘11 and ‘12.

‘I’ve been so close to winning,’ Sharapova said. ‘I would love to win this. I’ve been coming to this tournament since I was a little kid as a spectator. To be playing here, to be doing so well and getting to that stage, I sure hope I can go further this time.’
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