Federer through, Sharapova survives

Indian Wells, March 19:

Maria Sharapova’s unbeaten start to the year came its closest to ending when she took nearly three hours to subdue Alona Bondarenko in the Pacific Life Open fourth round on Tuesday.

Sharapova outlasted Bondarenko 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 for her 17th consecutive win, while three-time champion Roger Federer took only 54 minutes to dispatch Nicolas Mahut 6-1, 6-1. Also, top seed Ana Ivanovic downed Francesca Schiavone 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 and Lindsay Davenport beat Marion Bartoli 6-2, 7-5, while men’s No 11 Andy Murray rallied past Croatia’s Ivo Karlovi 7-6 (7), 6-7 (3), 6-3 and Tommy Haas of Germany beat Fernando Verdasco of Spain, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-1.

Sharapova, whose streak includes triumphs in the Australian Open and at Doha, moved into quarter-finals where she’ll play defending champion Daniela Hantuchova.

Federer hit nine aces and lost only four points on serve against Mahut. Federer’s fourth-round opponent will be Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, who ousted Tommy Robredo of Spain 6-3, 6-4.

Seventh-seeded David Nalbandian of Argentina was two points from defeat before beating Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 7-6 (1), 0-6, 7-6 (6). Nalbandian was serving at 3-5, 0-30 in the third when he began his comeback. He held, prevented Stepanek from serving out the match, then took the Czech into a second tiebreaker. There, Nalbandian missed three match points at 6-3, but converted his fourth.

The Argentine will next meet former No 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who saved two match points in ousting Mario Ancic 7-6 (1), 4-6, 7-6 (7). Lleyton Hewitt, the champion in 2002 and 2003, downed Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny 7-5, 6-1 and will play for a quarter-final spot against Mardy Fish of the United States, who upset fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 6-2.

Both of last year’s women’s finalists entered the quarter-finals. Fifth-seeded Hantuchova edged past Sania Mirza 6-1, 7-6 (4), and second-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-2, 6-3.

In other fourth-round matches, third-seeded Jelena Jankovic beat Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-3, and the Polish Agnieszka Radwanska overcame unseeded American Ashley Harkleroad 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 and will meet Kuznetsova. Vera Zvonareva ended the surprising run of Aussie Casey Dellacqua 6-7 (5), 6-0, 6-4.