Tearful Pennetta stuns Sharapova

Reuters and AFP, INDIAN WELLS, California

Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 20

Maria Sharapova fell victim to an emotional Flavia Pennetta, who burst into tears before regaining her composure to stun the second seed 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 at the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday.

Italy’s Pennetta, the defending champion at Indian Wells, left the court momentarily after breaking down following her first set loss.

“Sometimes women have these moments. [I] just go and let everything out, screaming,” Pennetta told reporters. “I just breathe and just let it pass.”

When the 15th-seeded Pennetta returned, she seized the momentum, going on to win 10 of their past 13 games to blaze past the two-time champion Sharapova and into the last eight.

Sharapova said she was unaware of Pennetta’s emotional outburst and had struggles of her own, the Russian finishing with 42 unforced errors and 11 double faults.

“Maybe I wasn’t playing my best tennis, but I was competitive enough,” Sharapova said. “I just wasn’t able to step up in the key moments.”

Earlier, top seed Serena Williams overcame a wobbly start to see off a determined Sloane Stephens 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-2 and move into the last eight.

Williams, playing her third match at Indian Wells after deciding to end a 14-year boycott of the event where she had suffered alleged racist abuse, enjoyed plenty of support, but struggled early to find her form.

Stephens, who reached the quarter-finals a year ago, looked ready to return to the last eight after breaking Williams twice to open the match, but in the end, there was no denying the world No. 1 as she extended her winning run to 14 matches.

In the men’s singles, four-time champion Roger Federer avenged his only loss of the season and world No. 3 Rafael Nadal avoided another early exit .

In January, Andreas Seppi shocked Federer in the third round of the Australian Open, but the Swiss star got his payback on Tuesday, winning 6-3, 6-4 in 82 minutes on center court.

It was Federer’s only loss and it snapped his streak of 11 straight semi-final appearances at the Aussie Open.

“It was good to play him right away again and erase it from the memory,” Federer said. “This was one of those matches where I was happy to get through and happy it was over.”

Federer moves through to the round of 16 to play American Jack Sock, who beat Spain’s Roberto Bautista-Agut 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Three-time champion Nadal avoided a second straight early exit from Indian Wells with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Donald Young.

Nadal is to square off against France’s Gilles Simon for a berth in the quarter-finals.

Last year, Nadal was eliminated in the third round by Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-6, 6-4. It was his earliest exit in the California desert tournament since 2004.

“Last year was 2014, and we are in 2015. Every year is different,” Nadal said. “I played a lot of good tournaments here with good results. I feel very comfortable. I’m happy to be in the fourth round.”

Nadal hit just one ace and made three double faults, but he broke Young six times in the 80-minute match on center court.