Sharapova rallies past Flipkens at Key Biscayne

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Maria Sharapova, of Russia, waves after defeating Kirsten Flipkens, of Belgium, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, at the Sony Open tennis tournament, Monday, March 24, 2014, in Key Biscayne, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Maria Sharapova, of Russia, waves after defeating Kirsten Flipkens, of Belgium, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, at the Sony Open tennis tournament, Monday, March 24, 2014, in Key Biscayne, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Maria Sharapova, of Russia, serves to Kirsten Flipkens, of Belgium, at the Sony Open tennis tournament, Monday, March 24, 2014, in Key Biscayne, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Maria Sharapova, of Russia, right, shakes hands with Kirsten Flipkens, of Belgium, after winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 at the Sony Open tennis tournament, Monday, March 24, 2014, in Key Biscayne, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Kirsten Flipkens, of Belgium, returns to Maria Sharapova, of Russia, at the Sony Open tennis tournament, Monday, March 24, 2014, in Key Biscayne, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Milos Raonic, of Canada, returns the ball to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, of Spain, during the Sony Open tennis tournament, Monday, March 24, 2014, in Key Biscayne, Fla. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) — Maria Sharapova was happy to play an 11 a.m. match Monday, especially when her work day was already done by the time a mid-afternoon shower interrupted play.

“It’s nice to see all the players coming back in the locker room, and I’m like, ‘I’ll see you later,'” she said.

Sharapova started early but didn’t start well. She won only five points in the first four games before settling down to reach the quarterfinals at the Sony Open by beating Kirsten Flipkens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The match was the second consecutive three-setter for Sharapova, a five-time Key Biscayne finalist seeking her first title in the event.

“I usually like playing the first match, but I didn’t start off the way I wanted to,” Sharapova said. “Nothing was working.”

Seeded No. 4, Sharapova seemed thrown off by the lack of pace from Flipkens, a tour veteran who hits floating backhands and sometimes slices her forehand as well.

“She’s a different type of opponent,” Sharapova said. “There are not too many girls that hit a slice backhand 90 percent of the time in the rallies. But I know what to expect from her game. It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.”

Sharapova finished with 36 unforced errors and only 13 winners. She also double-faulted 10 times.

But she won — and was ready to leave Crandon Park before most matches had even begun. With the rest of the day free, what was on the schedule for one of the world’s most celebrated athletes?

“Not much, actually,” Sharapova said. “I like to have my afternoon tea around 5. It’s like a Russian tradition. I’ll see my dog, spend some time with him, then get treatment, dinner, and then the day is over.”

At the top of her to-do list for the rest of the week is winning Key Biscayne for the first time. Sharapova has been the runner-up each of the past three years, but she downplays any frustration regarding her many near-misses.

“Of course, you want to be able to hold the winner’s trophy,” she said. “But you also remember the matches that you got through to get in the position to get to the final stage. It’s not like I didn’t have my opportunities in those finals; I just didn’t take them. That’s why you come back and hope for another chance.”

No. 5 Angelique Kerber joined Sharapova in the final eight by beating Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. In men’s third-round play, No. 12 Milos Raonic defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-1, 6-2.

Associated Press

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