Maria Sharapova recovered her serve and her nerve to beat Kaia Kanepi 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Thursday and advance to the Brisbane International semifinals.
The third-seeded Sharapova, playing just her second competitive match since August, was broken three times and made a rash of errors in the first set against Kanepi, the 2012 Brisbane champion.
Sharapova dropped serve again to open the second set but wasn't broken again for the remainder of the two-hour match. She sealed it on her second match point with her ninth ace – after wasting her first chance to close it out with a long floating backhand, her 33rd unforced error.
Sharapova will next play the winner of the quarterfinal between top-ranked Serena Williams and ninth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.
Williams has won her last 13 matches against Sharapova since 2004 and has a 14-2 overall record in their not-so-friendly rivalry.
Until her first-round match in Brisbane, Sharapova had only played one match since an early exit at Wimbledon as she recovered from a right shoulder injury. She opened here with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Caroline Garcia of France and then got a walkover into the quarterfinals when 17-year-old Australian Ashleigh Barty withdrew from their match with a leg injury.
The No. 30-ranked Kanepi of Estonia caused her trouble from the start. The match began with four consecutive service breaks until Sharapova held for a 3-2 lead. Kanepi then went on a roll, winning four of the next five games and firing an ace on her second set point to take a 1-0 lead. Kanepi was on course for a big upset after breaking Sharapova again to start the second, but Sharapova started to find her range and rallied strongly from there.
At Auckland, New Zealand, former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic advanced to the semifinals with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Japan's Kurumi Nara, while Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium advanced with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over another Japanese player, Sachie Ishizu.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams plays her quarterfinal match against Spaniard Garbine Muguruza later on Thursday. – Sapa-AP