In front of a capacity crowd brimming with excitement, it took Maria Sharapova three hours, 228 total points and nine match points to defeat the 26-seeded Czech Republic leftie Lucie Safarova last night in the third round at the Sony Open in Key Biscayne, Florida. The No. 4 ranked player had her chances, but the stubborn Safarova refused to go down without a fight.
The Russian player said of Safarova's play, ''She kept hitting unbelievable shots. One more. One more. I said, 'How many chances are you going to get?' I thought our level was quite high in the end.''
The final score of the match was 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-2. Sharapova was gracious in victory, pointing out how hard defeat can be in such a grueling battle. "After a match like that, it's tough to have only one winner, because both players give a lot and both want to win so much.''
Long day but what a reward.Thanks to all fans for making it an amazing atmosphere.Now I need to detangle my hair. :)Advice? @SonyOpenTennis
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) March 23, 2014
Also advancing in the tournament was the No. 1 ranked Serena Williams, who also had a long, tough fight against French player Caroline Garcia (No. 74) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. This was Williams' first tournament in a month and the rust certainly showed. Williams committed seven double-faults and recorded 41 unforced errors. She said of her game, "I can play a hundred times better. I really gave myself a tremendous amount of trouble out there. Granted she played great, but I made so many errors ... 40-something errors. It's not the way to play professional tennis. Maybe amateur.''
Third round action continues at the Sony Open today. Serena's sister Venus is set to square off this evening at 5 pm ET against Casey Dellacqua from Australia.
Also advancing to the fourth round are Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Ekaterina Makarova, Kristen Flipkens and the former No. 1 ranked Ana Ivanovic.
Image via Maria Sharapova, Twitter