Sharapova finds Medina Garrigues hard to master

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The Independent Online

Maria Sharapova needed more than three hours to beat Anabel Medina Garrigues and reach the quarter-finals of the Amelia Island Championships in Florida yesterday.

Sharapova won 7-6, 5-7, 7-6 as the players slugged it out from the baseline. The current Australian Open champion joined a fellow grand slam winner, the 2006 Wimbledon and Australian champion Amélie Mauresmo, in the quarter-finals after the 11th-seeded Frenchwoman beat Agnieszka Radwanska, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6.

"There were a lot of ups and downs in the match. I think I should have won the match in two sets to be honest," Sharapova said. "But I stopped hitting the ball and I kind of let her back in the match."

Sharapova, who held a 5-3 lead in the final set but was rattled by a controversial line call in the ninth game, was struggling at 5-6 before she dominated her service game to force a tiebreak. The Russian won that 7-1.

"When you're down 5-6 after being 5-3 up, you're just trying to think of the right things and just focusing on what you have to do in order to win point by point," Sharapova said.

"I played a really good game to get it even and I just thought, 'You have to do the same thing in the tiebreaker'. In those situations, after three hours or so, it all comes down to the heart and how tough you are. The forehands or backhands don't mean much after that."

Mauresmo landed 86 per cent of her first serves in the opening set but her Polish opponent was able to record the only service break. The 28-year-old Frenchwoman recovered in the second set and won the third-set tiebreak against the seventh-seeded Radwanska 8-6.

In Bremen, Rafael Nadal shrugged off jet-lag to beat Nicolas Kiefer 7-6, 6-0, 6-3 and give Spain a 1-0 lead over Germany in their Davis Cup quarter-final.

Nadal, who flew in from Miami at the start of the week, made a sluggish start on the fast indoor hard court but won an 88-minute first set 7-5 on the tiebreak, after blowing a chance to serve for it at 5-4.

The world No 2 found a better rhythm in the second set, helped by a stream of unforced errors from the 30-year-old Kiefer, who is back in the Davis Cup after an absence of more than two years. He broke in Kiefer's opening service game, after an inexplicable overhead mistake from the German, and after that it was all too easy.

Nadal romped through the second set and broke for 5-4 in the third before taking the first of three match points with a fizzing forehand from the back of the court.

Spain won the Davis Cup in 2000 and 2004; Germany, who won the last of their three Davis Cup titles in 1993, were looking to Philipp Kohlschreiber to get them back level in the tie in the second singles rubber, against David Ferrer.

In Moscow, Marat Safin rediscovered his form to give Russia a 1-0 lead in their quarter-final against the Czech Republic. The former world No 1 has struggled all season and is ranked 87th in the world but he found his rhythm to wear down Tomas Berdych 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in just under four hours to cheers from the partisan crowd.

Safin's powerful serves and forehands forced Berdych on to the defensive in the final three sets of a scrappy encounter in which both players made dozens of unforced errors. Eventually Safin's brute force overwhelmed Berdych, who would have fancied his chances of giving the Czechs an early lead as he was the in-form player going into the match, having reached the semi-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open last week.

Safin had won only one match all year – and none since the Australian Open in January. Safin served 29 aces in the match compared to Berdych's 11.