Sharapova Battles Into Semifinals & Top 10
Published March 29, 2011 12:00
MIAMI, FL, USA - It has been over two years since Maria Sharapova graced the Top 10 but that period will come to an end after this tournament, as the Russian secured a return to the elite with a dramatic 36 76(6) 76(5) win over Alexandra Dulgheru to reach the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson Open.
Sharapova, the No.16 seed at the $4.5-million event, was playing the No.26-seeded Dulgheru for the first time and had her hands full the entire time, losing the first set and surviving a tight 90-minute second set in which she was down 4-3 and 6-5, as well as two points away from losing at 6-all in the tie-break.
The fighting spirit of Sharapova pulled through as the match went to a third, and after letting a 4-2 lead slip away the Russian was again a game away from going out as Dulgheru served for the match at 5-4. Sharapova broke back for 5-all and although she turned her ankle after a serve in that game she still pressed on, eventually pushing it to a tie-break, where her aggression came through and she eventually closed out the three-hour, 28-minute duel with some big hitting.
"It was long. It was tough. It was not my best performance, but I gutted it out until the end," Sharapova said. "I was making too many errors and my opponent was playing really well and consistent and even though I had the lead, I never took care of it. But at the end of the day I won, so I'm really happy tonight.
"Sometimes it takes more than just playing well."
Sharapova commented on the ankle in her post-match presser. "It hurt when I did it. I've iced it a lot, did an ice bath and got it taped. I'll be okay. I'm tough."
Sharapova is projected to return to the Top 10 given her results here. It will be an amazing 240th week among the elite, her first 239 all coming consecutively between July 5, 2004 (right after she won Wimbledon) until February 1, 2009 (after she was unable to play the Australian Open, where she had won the year before, due to her well-documented right shoulder injury lay-off).
Next for Sharapova is No.21 seed Andrea Petkovic. They are tied in their head-to-head series, 1-1, with Sharapova winning handily in Cincinnati last year and Petkovic getting revenge in Australia this year, 62 63.
Dulgheru, who had only won one match this year before Miami, was gracious in defeat. "I knew I had to be more aggressive but I just didn't have the energy after running around so much. My legs were heavy so I didn't have great position on the court but after three sets, that can be expected. I tried to fight hard.
"It's tennis. I could have won, she could have won. She had some really good shots and we had some great points. All the credit to her - Maria is a great fighter. She can be down 40-0 and come back. It was a good match."
Dulgheru is the second Romanian ever to reach the quarterfinals in Miami, after Irina Spirlea did it in 1997 (Spirlea lost to Monica Seles that year, 36 62 63).
Japanese No.1 Kimiko Date-Krumm has set up a personal fund called Always Smile to help the Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims. If you would like to help out, please visit http://www.kimiko-date.com/gien/index.html.