KEY BISCAYNE, Florida (AP) — Serena Williams rallied from a break down in both sets Monday to beat Sam Stosur 7-5, 6-3 and advance to the quarterfinals of the Sony Ericsson Open.
Williams, bidding for a record sixth Key Biscayne title, avenged a loss to Stosur when they last met in the U.S. Open final in September.
Seeded 10th, Williams is playing in her first tournament since January after being sidelined by a left ankle injury. She hit 20 aces and lost only six points on her first serve, but she had to rally after being broken in the first game of each set against the No. 6-seeded Stosur.
Williams is seeking her first tournament championship since August.
Also reaching the quarterfinals was No. 2 Maria Sharapova, who overcame 11 double-faults to beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Sharapova won despite committing 52 unforced errors and losing her serve four times. She seeks her first Key Biscayne title after losing in the final three times.
On the men’s side, No. 8-seeded Mardy Fish assured he’ll remain the top-ranked American by beating No. 28 Kevin Anderson in the third round, 6-4, 6-3.
Williams started slowly, failing to convert her first seven break-point chances, but once she pulled even, her serve repeatedly got her out of trouble.
She hit three aces during a marathon game to hold for 3-2 in the second set. After falling behind love-40 in the final game, she smacked her last two aces and then a tricky second serve that kicked six feet high to handcuff Stosur and give Williams the final point.
“I’m really trying so hard,” she told the crowd. “My mom gave me the ultimate pep talk last night, so thanks, Mom.”
Her sister Venus was to face Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round Monday night. Venus is playing in her first tournament since withdrawing from the U.S. Open last August after being diagnosed with a fatigue-causing autoimmune disease.
“Venus has been so motivating, doing so well,” Serena said.
Sharapova, who could face Serena in the semifinals and Venus in the final, said the return of the sisters is good for the women’s tour.
“They’ve obviously achieved so much in tennis around the world and contribute so much to the sport,” Sharapova said. “To have these two great athletes playing in your sport, it’s always really good to see, not just for the fans, but for the game of tennis around the world.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.