Maria Sharapova was dumped out of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells by defending champion Flavia Pennetta – but world number one Serena Williams did manage to reach the quarter-finals.
Fresh from beating Victoria Azarenka in Monday’s third round, Sharapova looked ready to continue her fine run of form and took the first set against Pennetta, who looked distracted and emotional throughout the opening games.
— BNP Paribas Open (@BNPPARIBASOPEN) March 18, 2015
The Italian rallied, however, forcing Sharapova into a decider before tightening her grip on the match and closing out a 3-6 6-3 6-2 victory.
Williams had earlier recovered from a nightmare start to overcome her fellow American Sloane Stephens 6-7 (3/7) 6-2 6-2 in the Coachella Valley.
The world’s best player dropped her first two service games in the fourth career meeting between two former friends, whose relationship had cooled in the wake of Stephens’ solitary win at the 2013 Australian Open.
But Williams became increasingly dominant as the match went on and secured her win in two hours and seven minutes.
She will next tackle Timea Bacsinszky in the last eight after the Swiss hopeful’s 4-6 6-1 6-1 triumph over Elina Svitolina.
Awaiting Pennetta is Germany’s 24th seed Sabine Lisicki, who saw off Caroline Garcia 6-4 6-4.
Lesia Tsurenko emerged victorious from an epic late-night battle with sixth seed Eugenie Bouchard.
The Canadian, a Wimbledon finalist last summer, had to scrap to win the first set on a tie-break and could not keep Tsurenko under wraps as the world number 92 steadily turned the screw before clinching a 6-7 (5/7) 7-5 6-4 win after two hours and 50 minutes of play.
Carla Suarez Navarro progressed to the quarter-finals by beating British number one Heather Watson 7-6 (7/5) 3-6 6-1 and standing between her and a place in the final four is Simona Halep, the Romanian who defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-4 6-4.
Elsewhere, Jelena Jankovic reeled off five straight games as she beat Belinda Bencic 6-3 3-6 6-3.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will be hoping to be at his returning best when he takes on huge-serving John Isner in the Indian Wells last 16 today.
Djokovic leads Isner 5-2 head-to-head but they split their two previous meetings in Indian Wells – Djokovic triumphing in the semifinals last year but losing to Isner at the same stage in 2012.
“There will be a lot of serves, returns. Got to be ready to battle for the few points that will decide that match,” said Djokovic, who is searching for a 50th career title this week.
“He has a big serve. His entire game depends on his serve. He serves a high percentage of first serves and can beat any player on any surface. If he has a good day with serving, it’s going to be very difficult for me.”
Yesterday’s action saw Tomas Berdych blast into the fourth round with a routine 6-4, 6-2 victory over American Steve Johnson.
The ninth-seeded Czech has been in imperious form in 2015, with two runner-up showings and two semi-final appearances in the four tournaments he had competed in so far, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Berdych, a semi-finalist in Indian Wells two years ago, was facing the 25-year-old Johnson for the first time and needed just 72 minutes to dismiss the two-time NCAA champion, hitting 18 winners to a mere 15 unforced errors.
Berdych drew first blood, breaking in the fifth game and consolidated to go ahead 4-2. Johnson fought back, winning the next two games to level for 4-all but the world No. 9 was unfazed, breaking back with a huge forehand to inch ahead and serve for the opening set.
Indian Wells Wednesday: Day: Lopez-Nishikori Halep-CSN Simon-Nadal Sock-Seppi/Federer Night: Serena-Svitolina/Bacsinszky Djokovic-Isner
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 18, 2015
Berdych got his first set point with a service winner but he couldn’t convert, netting a slice backhand.
The 29-year-old soon had another chance and this time he found his serve, acing to take a 6-4 lead in 41 minutes.
The former Wimbledon finalist looked in command of the contest when he broke in the third game of the second set and he only dropped one game after that, sealing his victory on his second opportunity on a wide forehand from Johnson.
Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori both taken to three sets before progressing at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Djokovic also went through but Ferrer was beaten by Tomic.