Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 3/27/13
Battling her way out of three set points, Maria Sharapova needed to work overtime on a cool, windy day here at the Sony Open to reach the semifinal with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over the little seventh-seeded Italian Sara Errani. By saving those set points, Sharapova created a record for herself - 20 straight sets won. Never before has she gone 10 matches without dropping a set and it says much for the confidence that has flooded through her game since beating this same opponent in the final of the French Open last June that the tall Russian was able to hit her way out of trouble with three big winners. "I want to play aggressive," said Sharapova. "That's my game. I mean, I want to take my chances. I don't want to be waiting for my opponent to make mistakes. I felt I had to start doing that because I didn't feel like I had much pace to start with. I wasn't hitting ball; not stepping in. So on those set points I guess I buckled down and made those good shots." They came in the 10th game of the second set and all three left Errani standing. On the first, Sharapova conjured up an acute angle off her backhand and watched it clip the sideline. Then, a big off forehand winner saved the second and a forehand into an empty court after drawing the Italian wide took care of the third. Obviously, Sharapova was happy with the way she extracted herself from the mini-crisis, but she was still cross with herself. "It's great I got myself out of it but I don't feel like I should have been in that position," she said. "I was up a break. I had my chances. I felt I made things much more difficult than they should have been." It was no surprise that most of the problems Sharapova created for herself came from double faults - 14 in all, most of them in the first set. They might seem like gifts to an opponent but Errani looked at the other side of the coin. "Sure, she double faults sometimes but that is because she hits such a flat second serve," she said. "It comes at 90 mph which is very difficult to return. So she wins many points by risking a double fault. But I played OK. I did my best. But like the other times it was not good enough." Apart from the final at Roland Garros, Errani has lost in straight sets to the world No. 2 at the WTA Championships in Istanbul as well as Indian Wells 10 days ago. Yet the 25-year-old from Bologna has shot up the rankings in the last 12 months and, having won the title in Acapulco and reached the final of the Paris Indoors in February, is now established in the world's top 10. "She makes you work," said Sharapova. "She doesn't have the height; doesn't have the power but her ability to get so many balls back with so much variety over and over again makes it extremely difficult." In men's singles, No. 3 seed David Ferrer recovered from losing the first set to the Austrian left-hander Jurgen Melzer to reached the semifinal with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win. Following a trend we are seeing in the men's game now, this was a clash between Ferrer, who is 30 years old and Melzer, who is 31. On Tuesday night Tommy Haas, who turns 35 next week, upset the world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in one of the biggest shocks of the year so far. Of the players remaining in the draw at the quarterfinal stage, Marin Cilic, who plays Andy Murray (25) tomorrow, is the youngest at 24. The game has become too physically grueling for younger players to break through to the top. Physically, Ferrer can handle most things on a tennis court. The muscular Spaniard is known primarily as a clay court specialist but he has proved himself on other surfaces, too, especially here on the hard courts at Key Biscayne where he was a semifinalist in 2005 and 2006. Once Melzer ran out of steam after a hard-fought first set, Ferrer's relentless ground strokes took over.
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