Keu Biscane, Florida, Mar 25 : Mired in a marathon game midway through the opening set, Maria Sharapova wore down her opponent with characteristic resolve and relentlessness, then won the last point without hitting a shot.
That put Sharapova ahead to stay, and she beat fellow Russian Elena Vesnina on a muggy, 85-degree Fahrenheit afternoon at the Sony Open, 6-4, 6-2.
The No. 3-seeded Sharapova moved into the fourth round, eager to fill one of the few holes in her resume. While she completed a career Grand Slam last year, she has never won KeyBiscayne, losing the finals in 2005, `06, `11 and `12.
Her pivotal moment Sunday against Vesnina came at 3-all in the first set. The next game went to deuce seven times, with Sharapova repeatedly erasing a deficit, until Vesnina dumped a weary second serve into the net on break point.
All told, Sharapova benefited from eight double-faults by Vesnina, and erased eight of the nine break points she faced.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, seeking his fourth Key Biscayne title and third in a row, defeated No. 254-ranked Somdev Devvarman 6-2, 6-4. Djokovic next faces No. 15-seeded Tommy Haas, who beat No. 19 Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-2.
Seeded women eliminated included No. 6 Angelique Kerber, No. 11 Nadia Petrova and No. 14 Maria Kirilenko. Kerber lost to No. 28 Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 6-0, while Petrova was ousted by No. 22 Jelena Jankovic 7-6 (7), 6-4. Kirilenko lost to No. 21 Klara Zakopalova 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Lucky loser Lauren Davis of the United States was beaten by No. 32 Alize Cornet, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
In men's play, No. 3 David Ferrer defeated Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-5 and next faces No. 13 Kei Nishikori, who beat Xavier Malisse 6-2, 7-5. Ferrer improved to 6-0 against Fognini, including three victories this year, and reached the fourth round at Key Biscayne for the eighth time.