Sharapova rallies, Hingis cruises into semis

Updated: February 2, 2007, 5:25 PM ET
Associated Press

TOKYO -- Maria Sharapova advanced to the Pan Pacific Open semifinals, rallying after losing the first set to beat crowd favorite Ai Sugiyama 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 on Friday.

Sugiyama broke Sharapova's serve to win the first set but was overwhelmed by the No. 1 seed in the final two sets.

"It's never easy against Sugiyama," Sharapova said. "She had the crowd behind her and was able to take the first set, but I'm glad I was able to come back and win."

Sharapova will face fifth-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in Saturday's semifinals. Ivanovic defeated fourth-seeded compatriot Jelena Jankovic 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Martina Hingis, seeded second, coasted to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Australia's Samantha Stosur to advance to the semifinals.

"It's no coincidence that I play well here," said Hingis, who has won here four times. "The surface suits me and everyone treats me so well here in Japan so that I'm able to relax."

Hingis will next face defending champion Elena Dementieva of Russia, who downed Italy's Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-2.

As in Thursday's match against Francesca Schiavone, Sharapova struggled with her serve, conceding 14 double-faults and hitting just one ace.

Once again, her coach Michael Joyce had some advice between sets.

"She was playing aggressively in the first set and I wasn't making my shots," Sharapova said. "Michael told me to move it around and play more aggressively, and I started making my shots and gave her less time to do what she wanted to do."

In their only previous meeting, Sharapova beat Sugiyama in the 2004 Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Sharapova said she didn't let her serving problems get the better of her.

"I worried about the serve a little too much in the first set," Sharapova said. "There are going to be days when your serve isn't working and when that happens you just have to concentrate on the things that are going well."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE