By Fernie Ruano, Jr.
On Tuesday afternoon, No. 4 seed Maria Sharapova left herself enough time for an additional massage or perhaps a walk on the beach, after making quick work of No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova 7-5, 6-1 in the Stadium Court at the 2014 Sony Open Tennis. The victory secures the Russian star a spot in the semifinals, where a potential rematch against world No. 1 Serena Williams looms.
For the five-time finalist, who has never failed to reach a Key Biscayne final once she has reached the quarterfinals, a trip to the Tennis Center of Crandon Park usually leaves little time for much else, other than a late-afternoon cup of tea and dinner, in between a quick visit with her dog. But after Tuesday’s win over Kvitova, the Russian star will have a bit more time to relax before her semifinal.
“Yeah, I didn’t have a good few first games, but I was happy I was steady,” said Sharapova, who scored her first victory of the year against a Top 10 opponent. She is still alive to make her fourth straight Key Biscayne finals appearance and said the quality of her opponent helped keep her focused. “She’s a Grand Slam champion. You can’t underestimate a player with that kind of experience.”
A visibly emotional Sharapova, pumping her right first and screaming “Come On!” on what seemed after every winner, broke Kvitova’s serve easily in the 12th game of the first set to take a lead she would never relinquish. The lefty ran Kvitova all over the court and returned everything the 24-year-old Czech threw at her, ending the set with four straight points.
Even in the hot and humid South Florida weather, Sharapova, who used a cold and iced towel at times during the match, raced out to a 4-0 lead and broke Kvitova one more time to wrap up the match. Kvitova, who reached the quarterfinals in Key Biscayne for the first time in seven career appearances, fell to 30-30 all-time against Top 10 opponents.
Last year’s Sony Open men’s champion, Andy Murray, displayed blistering form in his 6-4, 6-1 victory of France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 11 seed. Murray terrific return game was on display against the big-serving Frenchman throughout the match, as was his consistency from the baseline. Murray moves on to face three-time champion Novak Djokovic, who won earlier in the day, in a Wednesday quarterfinal that will be the match of the tournament so far.
In an upset on the Grandstand, No. 22 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov upended World No. 3 Stanilas Wawrinka 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, moving into the quarterfinals for the first time in four tournament appearances while continuing his impressive run in Key Biscayne. Dolgopolov moved to 3-3 on the year against Top 10 opponents, and scored his second consecutive win over Wawrinka, the 2013 Aussie Open champion who had stormed in the quarters on a 15-1 run. Next up, Dolgopolov could face World No. 1 Rafael Nadal if the Spaniard wins his Tuesday night match. Dolgopolov upset Nadal earlier in the month in Indian Wells.