Top-seeded Federer, Sharapova Beaten At Key Biscayne

Wednesday, March 28th 2007, 7:59 am
By: News On 6

KEY BISCAYNE, Florida (AP) _ Rematches became repeats for Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova at the Sony Ericsson Open on Tuesday.

Both lost.

Guillermo Canas upset top-ranked Federer for the second time this month, 7-6 (2), 2-6, 7-6 (5) in a fourth-round epic.

Serena Williams beat Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 in a rout reminiscent of their Australian Open final two months ago.

With that, Key Biscayne's two No. 1-seeded players were eliminated.

Two weeks ago, Canas ended Federer's 41-match winning streak at Indian Wells. The dogged Argentine showed the victory was no fluke, extending points by repeatedly chasing down shots and forcing a frustrated Federer into 51 unforced errors.

``It's one of those matches I never should have lost,'' Federer said.

The defeat ended his bid for a third successive Key Biscayne title, while Canas improved to 3-0 this year against top-10 players. He was ranked as high as No. 8 before serving a 15-month doping suspension, and he had to qualify for the Key Biscayne draw. He's the first qualifier in nine years to reach the quarterfinals.

``I beat No. 1 two times in a row. I don't know what is my secret,'' Canas said. ``I'm just trying to enjoy the moment. For me it's like a dream.''

Williams, who defeated Sharapova 6-1, 6-2 in the Australian Open final, this time won even more easily. She bristled when asked if she expected such an easy rematch.

``Haven't you learned that I expect the best of myself?'' she said. ``If I'm playing well, then anything can happen. I believe there could be a similar score if I'm playing well.''

While Sharapova and Federer lost, Andy Roddick won his rematch against David Ferrer. The Spaniard was an upset winner when they played at Key Biscayne a year ago, but this time the third-seeded Roddick won 7-5, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals.

No. 2 Rafael Nadal defeated 18-year-old Argentine Juan Martin del Potro 6-0, 6-4.

Sixth-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain took nearly three hours to finish off Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 7-6 (4), 5-7, 7-6 (3), and No. 12 Andy Murray of Britain overcame two match points to beat Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. Murray faces Roddick next. Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic, last year's runner-up, fired 13 aces in beating Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 7-6 (4), 6-4 and set up a quarterfinal with Argentina's Juan Ignacio Chela.

Top-ranked Justine Henin reached the Key Biscayne semifinals for the first time by beating No. 6-seeded Nadia Petrova 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4). Henin's opponent on Thursday will be another Russian, No. 9 Anna Chakvetadze, who beat No. 15 Li Na of China 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

With a parade of Grand Slam champions on the schedule, Canas won the biggest cheers. South Florida's large Latin population made for a festive stadium atmosphere, with fans singing, waving Argentine flags, and shouting ``Willy!'' _ Canas' nickname.

``As long as they don't boo my Swiss flag, it's OK,'' Federer said. ``This was a nice atmosphere to play.''

Federer may play big points as well as anyone ever, but Canas was better at pivotal moments. The Argentine kept his cool in both tense tiebreakers, while Federer looked shaken at times and converted only four of 16 break-point chances.

The match turned with Canas serving at 0-2 in the final set. Federer had four break points, each a chance to pull away, and he failed to convert them.

The decisive moment in the second tiebreaker came with Federer serving at 4-5. Canas hit a short, high lob, and Federer handled it like a weekend hacker.

``I didn't want to let it bounce,'' he said. ``It's a tough shot to hit. I mean, I guess at 1-0, 15-love in the first set, that's not a problem. But it was tough. It was getting into the night. It kind of made it a bit tricky, and I messed it up.''

Canas then closed out the win with a 125-mph (200-kph) service winner. That made Federer 0-2 against Canas this year and 14-0 against everyone else.

Next month the tour moves to clay _ Canas' best surface and Federer's worst. How will Federer shake the slump?

``I'm not going to play him every week, so it doesn't matter,'' Federer said.

Sharapova faces a similar riddle regarding Williams, who has won 24 of their 29 games this year.

``Once she gets up in the set or in the match,'' Sharapova said, ``she seems to steamroll.''

Williams, ranked No. 1 in 2002-03, has played only six tournaments in the past 18 months and has slipped to 18th. But when she hit a forehand winner on match point, she raised her index finger and shouted ``No. 1'' to the cheering crowd.

After shaking hands with Sharapova, a jubilant Williams raised her finger again.

``Every time I do that I win, so I'm a little superstitious,'' she said. ``I'm working toward getting to be the best. It's an uphill battle.''

Seeking her fourth Key Biscayne title, No. 13-seeded Williams will play No. 8 Nicole Vaidisova in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Sharapova, who lost the No. 1 ranking last week to Justine Henin, has yet to win a tournament this year. She beat Venus Williams in the third round on Sunday but lasted only 58 minutes against the younger sister.

As was the case in Melbourne, the tall Russian struggled with her serve, once a strength. Hitting aggressively, she double-faulted eight times and won only four of 16 points on her second serve.

``When you feel that you need to hold serve against someone like her, and someone that's serving so well, I think that puts a little bit of extra pressure on your serve,'' Sharapova said.

Playing like the Slammin' Serena of old, Williams went for a winner on most of her shots, yet still committed only 15 unforced errors. She won the final five games of the first set and the last six games of the match.