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Sharapova keeps Miami title quest on track

Maria Sharapova scoops out a forehand at the Miami Masters on March 27, 2013
Maria Sharapova scoops out a forehand at the Miami Masters on March 27, 2013. She will battle for a place in the final against the 22nd-seeded Serbian Jelena Jankovic.

Maria Sharapova kept her quest for a first Miami title on track with a hard-fought 7-5, 7-5 quarter-final triumph over Italy's Sara Errani.

"With all the tournaments I have played, this one I have been so successful at but yet I haven't won it," said Sharapova, a four-time finalist at the Miami WTA and ATP Masters hardcourt tournament but never the winner.

"I've been so close to winning," she said. "I would love to win this. I've been coming to this tournament since I was a little kid. It would mean a lot to win it."

Sharapova will battle for a place in the final against 22nd-seeded Serbian Jelena Jankovic.

Maria Sharapova hits a smash against Sara Errani at the Miami Masters on March 27, 2013
Maria Sharapova hits a smash against Sara Errani at the Miami Masters on March 27, 2013. The Russian kept her quest for a first Miami title on track with a hard-fought 7-5, 7-5 quarter-final triumph.

Former world No. 1 Jankovic defeated Italian Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3.

The other women's semi-final was set on Tuesday, with world No. 1 and top seed Serena Williams advancing to take on defending champion and fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.

Third-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer led the way into the men's semis as he rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory over unseeded Austrian Jurgen Melzer.

Ferrer, winner of two titles already this year at Auckland and Buenos Aires, steadied after an erratic first set and eventually cruised through the third to improve to 7-2 against the Austrian left-hander.

"I was a little bit nervous in the first set and part of the second, but I tried to fight every point, to be focused, and I had a good feeling in the end of the second set and of course in the third one," Ferrer said.

Ferrer next faces Germany's giant-killer Tommy Haas, who defeated France's Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1.

Jelena Jankovic of Serbia plays a backhand to Roberta Vinci at the Miami Masters on March 27, 2013
Jelena Jankovic of Serbia plays a backhand to Roberta Vinci at the Miami Masters on March 27, 2013. Former world No. 1 Jankovic defeated the Italian 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3.

Haas, at 34 the oldest player ranked in the top 50 in the world, showed no sign of a letdown a day after he toppled world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. The 15th-seeded Haas dispatched 11th-seeded Simon in 64 minutes, never facing a break point.

"I used my chances right away in the second set and took that momentum," he said. "Again, I played the way I wanted to, using my all-around game and variety. I think I did that pretty well tonight."

Sharapova had her struggles against eighth-seeded Errani, the same woman Sharapova beat in last year's French Open final to complete a career Grand Slam.

Sharapova fired six aces, but also had 14 double faults.

Trailing 4-5 in the second, Sharapova saved three set points to knot the set at 5-5. She then broke Errani in the penultimate game and held serve to end it on a forehand winner after two hours and 29 minutes.

David Ferrer celebrates beating Jurgen Melzer at the Miami Masters on March 27, 2013
David Ferrer celebrates beating Jurgen Melzer at the Miami Masters on March 27, 2013. Ferrer next faces Germany's giant-killer Tommy Haas, who defeated France's Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1.

Although she was pleased to wrap it up in two sets, Sharapova said she should have sealed it even sooner after twice going up a break in the second set.

"Of course it's great that I was able to come back, but I felt like I made things much more difficult than they should have been," she said.

Sharapova lost to Kim Clijsters in the 2005 Miami final, to Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2006, Victoria Azarenka in 2011 and Radwanska last year -- all in straight sets.

Not only is she trying to fill that gap on her resume, she's trying to become just the third woman to win both the prestigious Indian Wells and Miami hardcourt titles in the same year.

German great Steffi Graf accomplished the feat in 1994 and 1996, and Clijsters did so in 2005.

"I think it's one of the toughest back to backs of the year," Sharapova said. "It's the amount of matches. It's also the late matches that you're playing, the recovery.

"Also coming from different coasts. I mean, it's not just a hop. It's a five-hour flight."

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