There is nothing like a good cry to get Flavia Pennetta in a winning frame of mind.
The defending champion from Italy sent world number two Maria Sharapova crashing out of Indian Wells on Tuesday, winning a three-set, two-hour marathon after almost letting her emotions get the best of her.
Pennetta got off to a rough start in the opening set and it wasn’t until after she broke down emotionally that she says she was able to rally for the 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 fourth round victory.
“Sometimes a woman has these moments,” said Pennetta, adding she felt “refreshed” after leaving the court and going into the tunnel area under the stands, where she let loose with a screaming, sobbing and crying episode.
“Sometimes you just need to take everything out. On the court it is not easy to do that.
“I was just trying to keep calm and play every point. But when I finished the first set I was feeling, I have to go out … just go and let everything out, screaming, do something.
“After that I was refreshed a little bit and I tried to get back on the court and start again.”
Asked by reporters if there might be something going on in her personal life that would cause her to do that, Pennetta said without hesitation, “Si, si. I am really happy.”
Happy indeed, after shocking the five-time Grand Slam winner and second seed Sharapova, who was hoping to become the first three time female winner at Indian Wells.
“No real excuses. I went out and lost the match,” Sharapova said.
Sharapova committed 11 double faults and was broken four times.
Pennetta advanced to the quarter-finals, where she will meet either Caroline Garcia of France or Sabine Lisicki of Germany.
Pennetta, who won her 10th and biggest title of her career with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Agnieszka Radwanska last year, extended her match winning streak to nine.
Sharapova started the season by winning her 34th career singles title in Brisbane, Australia then reached the Aussie Open final where she lost to Serena Williams.
Sharapova said she didn’t see Pennetta leave the court so she had no idea what was going on.
“News to me,” she said when told of the defending champ’s breakdown. “She was seeing the ball much better than I was.”
This was the fifth career meeting between the two with Pennetta now holding a 3-2 edge.
In the meantime, four-time champion Roger Federer avenged his only loss of the season and world No. 3 Rafael Nadal avoided another early exit Tuesday at the WTA and ATP Indian Wells tournament.
It was in January that Andreas Seppi shocked Federer in the third round of the Australian Open but the Swiss star got his payback Tuesday winning 6-3, 6-4 in 82 minutes on centre court.
It was Federer’s only loss and it snapped his streak of 11 straight semi-final appearances at the Aussie Open.
“It was good to play him right away again and erase it from the memory,” said Federer. “This was one of those matches where I was happy to get through and happy it was over.”
Federer moves through to the round of 16 to play American Jack Sock, who beat Spain’s Roberto Bautista-Agut 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Three-time champion Nadal avoided a second straight early exit from Indian Wells with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Donald Young.
Nadal will square off against France’s Gilles Simon for a berth in the quarter-finals.
Last year, Nadal was eliminated in the third round by Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-6, 6-4. It was his earliest exit in the California desert tournament since 2004.
“Last year was 2014 and we are in 2015. Every year is different,” Nadal said. “I played a lot of good tournaments here with good results.
“I feel very comfortable. I happy to be in the fourth round.”
Nadal hit just one ace and made three double faults but he broke Young six times in the 80-minute match on centre court.
He hopes to improve his serve in the next round against Simon.
“It’s true that I had a few mistakes with my serve,” he said. “But then with a positive attitude in the next game, I was able to have breaks.
“I did what I had to do to get through, winning in straight sets. I need to serve a little bit better tomorrow.”
World number one Serena Williams woke up after a slow start to battle past American compatriot Sloane Stephens in three sets to reach the quarter-finals.
The 19-time Grand Slam winner defeated a dogged Stephens 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-2 as her emotional return from a 14-year Indian Wells boycott gathers pace.
Williams, 33, said it was good to play a two-hour match because she needs to step up her game if she is going to advance deeper into the draw.
“I still am trying to find my bearings,” she said. “I have been off a little this week.
“I just had to stay focused and use the experience of a three-set match.”
Williams, who blasted 14 aces and broke Stephens six times in the two-hour, six-minute match, faces Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland next.
The two former Fed Cup teammates have a colourful history after Stephens, 21, upset Williams in the quarter-finals of the 2013 Australian Open in three sets.
That win ended Williams’ 20-match winning streak and the two haven’t been chummy since then.
Sixth seeded Canadian Eugenie Bouchard was upset by qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, who rallied for a 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 6-4 victory.
In other matches, Canadian sixth seed Milos Raonic hammered Dolgopolov 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, Czech Tomas Berdych rolled over American Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-2 and Simon took care of Michael Berrer, of Germany, 6-2, 7-5. – Agence France-Presse