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
"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."