Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Tennis [Print without images]

Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Updated: August 6, 7:23 AM ET
Sharapova, Safina advance in L.A.

Associated Press

CARSON, Calif. -- Maria Sharapova advanced to the third round of the Los Angeles Women's Tennis Championships on Wednesday night, beating third-seeded Victoria Azarenka 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2 at The Home Depot Center.

Still in comeback mode after missing seven months because of a shoulder injury, Sharapova rallied to win the competitive 2-hour, 32-minute match.

"I loved it," Sharapova said. "You expect that against her. She's a great retriever and makes you hits tons of balls. I had to come in with a good game plan and a smart one. I think I did good job adjusting out to the circumstances. I am pleased.

"I knew I was going to have to dig deep and try to find ways. I'm pretty happy with the way I was able to hang in with her and really step up when had to. That was the difference between us."

One of the circumstances confronting the players was a baby crying during the first set. Asked if she had heard it, Sharapova stared at the questioner and smiled.

"Did I hear the baby?" she asked. "My mother in Russia heard the baby."

Sharapova's rebuilt serve was erratic, her four aces offset by a dozen double-faults, but she was much steadier with her groundstrokes than Azarenka.

"I'm not happy with my game at all. The execution wasn't there today," said Azarenka, who hadn't played since losing in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. "Maybe it was from not playing, but I have to work hard, for sure. Just too many mistakes."

Top-ranked defending champion Dinara Safina beat Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-4, a victory that guaranteed her a berth in the season-ending event in Qatar.

"It was a good match," Safina said. "I feel I can improve. It was a solid match. I didn't do anything spectacular. We play the same way, so it depends on who's going to take charge of the points, and I think at the crucial times I was more aggressive."

Safina will face 14th-seeded Zheng Jie, a 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 winner over Elena Vesnina, in the third round.

Second-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia advanced with a three-set win over Peng Shuai late Tuesday night and will face Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer in the third round. Wickmayer beat American qualifier Jill Craybas, 7-6 (2), 6-1 on Wednesday.

In other second-round matches, Sorana Cirstea upset fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), fifth-seeded Nadia Petrova beat Shahar Peer 6-4, 2-6, 6-3; Urszula Radwanska edged seventh-seeded Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-4, and eighth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska routed Ai Sugiyama 6-2, 6-1.