On a day that saw play interrupted by rain, it seemed nothing
could stop the cream of women's tennis from rising to the top with
Williams, a six-time Miami champion, Australian Open winner Li Na,
third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, five-time runner-up Maria Sharapova
and fifth seed Angelique Kerber all moving into the last eight.
But Serena's big sister Venus could not complete the Williams family
double, falling 6-1 5-7 6-3 to Slovakian 10th seed Dominika Cibulkova
just as the center court clock was about to strike midnight.
While Serena Williams and Sharapova clashed in last year's Miami
final, there will be no championship rematch this Saturday with the
American and Russian on the same side of the draw and closing in on
a semi-final showdown.
After getting her title defense off to a slow start, Williams, who
lives an hour's drive from the Crandon Park Tennis Center and
considers the event her home tournament, stepped it up a gear
against Coco Vandeweghe, sweeping past the young American qualifier
6-3 6-1 in 79 minutes.
"I was definitely happier today," Williams told reporters. "I was
really struggling my first two matches, so I just wanted to have a
better performance today.
"Going into the match I knew I could only do better. That kind of
helped out, too."
Li was no less ruthless, the Chinese world number two demolishing
Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0 6-2 in 61 minutes while Radwanska
grinded out a 7-6 (5) 5-7 6-2 victory over Ukraine's Elina
Kerber also needed three sets to get past Russian Ekaterina Makarova
6-4 1-6 6-3.
Fourth seed Sharapova got a much-needed wake-up call after
sleep-walking her way through the opening set before dispatching
Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 3-6 6-4 6-1 while Kerber also needed three
sets to get by Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 1-6 6-3.
Former world number one and 12th seed Ana Ivanovic seemed headed for
a quarter-final berth after comfortably taking the first set against
eighth seed Czech Petra Kvitova but fell apart after that,
committing 11 double faults en route to a stunning 3-6 6-0 6-0 loss.
Williams, a minority owner of the National Football League's Miami
Dolphins, once again stepped onto the court dressed in her team's
turquoise and orange colors and kicked off the match by claiming the
only break of the opening set for the early lead.
In the second set, Williams simply blitzed Vandeweghe, overpowering
the 22-year-old who managed to hold her serve just once against the
17-times grand slam winner.
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"It doesn't feel great (playing bad tennis)," said Williams. "That
also gave me confidence to know if I'm winning these matches when
I'm playing some of the worst tennis I have personally played in the
past couple of years, then, you know, it gave me a lot of hope.
"I'm in a better mood now. It was impossible for me to be in a good
mood after I played those last matches."
Sharapova, playing the first match of the day on a drowsy and
overcast center court, appeared to have trouble getting up for her
fourth-round contest, as did many of the ticket holders with only a
few hundred spectators sprinkled across the quiet stadium as play
"I started off ... probably looked like it was too early," Sharapova
told reporters. "I usually like playing first match on, but I didn't
start off the way I wanted to.
"Nothing was working. Just the way it went in the beginning."
Flipkens certainly came ready to play and broke a misfiring
Sharapova at the first opportunity and again to go up 4-0 with the
help of back-to-back double faults from the Russian.
In the second set, a suddenly alert and focused Sharapova turned the
tables on the 19th-seeded Belgian as she raced in front 4-0 on a
pair of breaks on way to leveling the match.
Trailing 3-1 in the third set, Flipkens had a glorious opportunity
to get back into the contest after going up 0-40 on Sharapova's
serve but was unable to convert on any of her four break chances.
Sharapova weathered the storm, then closed out the match by sweeping
the next two games to reach the last eight.
"You want to be able to hold the winner's trophy, but you also know
the matches that you got through to get in the position to get to
the final stage," said Sharapova. "I had my opportunities.
"It's not like I didn't have my opportunities in those finals. I
just didn't take them."
(Editing by Frank Pingue and Sudipto Ganguly)
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