Sharapova takes first step to end Miami title drought
By Bill Scott Mar 22, 2012, 22:26 GMT
Miami - Three-time finalist Maria Sharapova took the first step toward trying to end her Miami Masters title drought with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 comeback win over Shahar Peer on Thursday.
The Russian world number two is coming off a finals loss at the weekend to number one Victoria Azarenka at Indian Wells.
The three-time Grand Slam winner has never lost before the Miami fourth round - save her debut year as a teenager in 2003. She is playing the event after missing three of the four previous editions with injury (right shoulder and right elbow).
Fellow Grand Slam winner Samantha Stosur, the sixth-seeded US Open holder, advanced after a bye into the third round over Russian Valeria Savinykh 6-4, 6-0.
Serena Williams made a winning return to tennis two months after her last WTA match, with the five-time champion marking the occasion 6-2, 6-over China's Zhang Shuai.
Williams, who first played her home event in 1998, improved her record at the venue to 53-6 as she played Miami for the first time since 2009, after being absent due to injury and illness. She lost that final three years ago to current number-one Azarenka.
The former top-ranked player last appeared in a WTA match during a fourth-round Australian Open loss to Russian Ekaterina Makarova before playing two Fed Cup rubbers in February.
'I felt a little bit rusty,' said the 30-year-old. 'I was a little nervous for whatever reason. I haven't played here for so long and I wanted to do well. But now that I've gotten one win I will be better.
'It's been too long, it was really good. The last couple of years I haven't been able to play. But I just dwell on the fact I was there and I was so happy and I wanted to do really well.'
German 12th seed Sabine Lisicki, who bases herself in Florida for training, started with a comprehensive defeat of Swede Sofia Arvidsson 6-3, 6-2 while compatriot Mona Barthel upset slumping Serb 13th seed Jelena Jankovic 6-0, 6-3.
Belgian Kim Clijsters prevented a German victory hat-trick on the day as she beat Julia Goerges, the 14th seed, 6-2, 7-5.
'There was an improvement today,' said Clijsters. 'Julia is a good player and I knew stepping out on court today that I'm gonna have to play a better type of tennis.'
Two-time Miami winner Clijsters won the first and led 4-2 in the second, but the 28-year-old who will wrap up her career this season, had to hold off a fightback to finally claim victory.
2006 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova lost a battle against Czech Iveta Benesova 1-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (9-7).
In men's first-round play, with seeds all given byes, American youngster Ryan Harrison booked his second career meeting with two-time champion Roger Federer after a defeat of Potito Starace 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 6-4.
Marcos Baghdatis will line up against top seed Novak Djokovic thanks to a 6-1, 6-4 hammering of Argentine Leonardo Mayer.
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