Sharapova edges Venus Williams

The match included 25 double faults, one on a second serve that landed wide of the doubles alley.

updated: March 29, 2007 17:23 IST
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The match included 25 double faults, one on a second serve that landed wide of the doubles alley.

There were 91 unforced errors and 13 service breaks, resulting in 2 1/2 hours of fitful tennis before a stadium crowd that groaned at the mishits and missed chances.

Maybe one match every 20 months between Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams is enough.

The two Grand Slam champions played Sunday for the first time since the 2005 Wimbledon semifinals, and Sharapova was slightly less erratic, winning 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open.

"I'm a fighter and a big competitor," Sharapova said. "That's why I play the sport. I enjoy the battle of it, and a lot of my matches, it depends on who fights more in the end."

Appropriately, the final shot, a forehand by Williams, sailed 10 feet long. Both players blamed the sloppy play on the gusty wind common on Key Biscayne.

"You know you're not going to play your best tennis," Sharapova said. "You're always going to have to adjust. You definitely can't get frustrated."

Sharapova overcame 13 double faults to exact a measure of revenge from the Williams family. She was drubbed by Serena Williams in the Australian Open final in January.

The result prevented a potential fourth-round showdown between the Williams sisters. It would have been their first meeting since the 2005 U.S. Open.

Sharapova hit the wildest shot, landing a second serve closer to a changeover chair than the court, but Williams missed more than half her first serves and committed 55 unforced errors. Slowed in recent months by injuries, Williams was unseeded and playing in only her third tournament since July.

"I just struggled with my consistency a little bit," said Williams, a three-time Key Biscayne champion. "The rhythm, there were a lot of points where I wasn't quite there."

Third-seeded Andy Roddick, who has yet to lose his serve in two matches, beat No. 32 Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-4. Roddick's fourth-round opponent will be No. 13 David Ferrer, who won when they met in the quarterfinals a year ago.

No. 2 Rafael Nadal advanced when Olivier Rochus pulled out before their match with a foot injury.

In other women's play, top-ranked Justine Henin rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the third set to reach Monday's fourth round. Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 4-seeded Kim Clijsters also advanced, but No. 5 Martina Hingis lost.

Serena Williams' match against No. 23 Lucie Safarova was postponed until Monday because of rain. The winner will play Sharapova on Tuesday.

Sharapova, runner-up at Key Biscayne each of the past two years, is seeking her first title in the event and her first championship this year.

She was two points from defeat serving at 4-5 but held, then broke for a 6-5 lead when Williams failed to convert four game points on her serve, committing an error each time.

Sharapova hit one last double fault on the first point of the final game but steadied herself and served out the win, helped by four more errors by Williams.

"I was definitely happy with the way I was able to hold on," Sharapova said.

She's seeded No. 1, even though she lost the top ranking to Henin on Monday. Henin lived up to her new billing, barely when she came from behind three times in the third set to beat Virginie Razzano 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (5).

Henin won four consecutive games in the final set to reach 5-all. Serving at 5-6, love-30, she rallied for 6-all. Then she fell behind 2-0 in the tiebreaker before staging one last charge and closing out the third-round victory with a forehand winner.

"I came back from nowhere almost," Henin said. "It's this kind of situation that I play my best tennis. I proved it many times in the past. I probably love to be under pressure, but it's good to win in two sets, too."

Hingis lost to 17-year-old Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and settled for a consolation prize: the $20 million milestone. Hingis became the fourth player to reach that mark in career earnings, joining Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport and Martina Navratilova.

"It's not great doing it this way," Hingis said.

A two-time Key Biscayne champion, Hingis lost in the third round for the second year in a row. She has reached only one semifinal in eight tournaments this year.