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Sharapova advances at Key Biscayne match

KEY BISCAYNE, Florida -- Maria Sharapova was happy to play an 11:00 a.m. match Monday, especially when her work day was already done by the time a mid-afternoon shower interrupted play.

“It's nice to see all the players coming back in the locker room, and I'm like, 'I'll see you later,'” she said.

Sharapova started early but didn't start well. She won only five points in the first four games before settling down to reach the quarterfinals at the Sony Open by beating Kirsten Flipkens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The world's top-ranked players had an easier time. Serena Williams eliminated fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-1. Rafael Nadal received a warning for slow play and still won in 59 minutes against Denis Istomin, 6-1, 6-0.

Venus Williams lost her serve eight times and was beaten by No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.

Sharapova, meanwhile, endured her second successive ragged three-setter and found herself trailing 4-0 after only 15 minutes.

“I usually like playing the first match, but I didn't start off the way I wanted to,” she said. “Nothing was working.”

Seeded No. 4, Sharapova seemed thrown off by the lack of pace from Flipkens, a tour veteran who hits floating backhands and sometimes slices her forehand as well.

“She's a different type of opponent,” Sharapova said. “There are not too many girls that hit a slice backhand 90 percent of the time in the rallies. But I know what to expect from her game. It shouldn't be that much of a surprise.”

Sharapova finished with 36 unforced errors and only 13 winners. She also double-faulted 10 times.

But she won — and was ready to leave Crandon Park before most matches had even begun. With the rest of the day free, what was on the schedule for one of the world's most celebrated athletes?

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 Andy Murray makes it to 4th round at Sony Open 
Maria Sharapova, of Russia, returns the ball to Kirsten Flipkens, of Belgium, at the Sony Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Florida on Monday, March 24. (AP)

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