Sharapova into quarters
Tokyo - Maria Sharapova overcame more problems with her serve to beat Czech Lucie Safarova 6-2 7-6 and reach the quarter-finals of the Pan Pacific Open on Wednesday.
French Open champion Sharapova finished the match with an ace but double-faults on big points almost cost the Russian the second set as the sun set over Tokyo.
"After a long match on Tuesday, I was just happy to win in two (sets)," said Sharapova, who had taken more than three hours to dispatch British qualifier Heather Watson the previous day.
"Obviously, I had a bit of a let-down in the second set," added the second seed, almost forced into a decider having blown a 3-0 advantage in the set before digging in to claim the tiebreak 7-5.
Sharapova will next face eighth seed Samantha Stosur of Australia after last year's US Open champion beat Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova 6-4 7-5.
"I expect a really tough match," said Olympic silver medallist Sharapova, twice a Pan Pacific Open winner, who served 14 double-faults in her opener and six against Safarova.
"Hopefully I'll play better on Thursday."
Italy's Sara Errani ended the French resistance in Tokyo, overcoming ninth seed Marion Bartoli 3-6 6-2 6-2 to reach the last eight of the WTA premier five event.
The sixth seed won in two hours and 22 minutes, clinching victory with a crunching forehand her opponent could only dump into the net.
"I'm a bit tired but I have lots of motivation to keep winning," said Errani, who has captured titles in Acapulco, Barcelona, Budapest and Palermo this year.
"It's been an amazing year but I still have to qualify for the (season-ending) Championships."
Errani set up a quarter-final against Russia's Nadia Petrova, the 17th seed battling to a 7-6 6-7 6-4 victory over Croatia's Petra Martic.
Nine of the world's top 10 women are competing at the hard-court event, with US Open champion Serena Williams the only absentee among the WTA's elite.