By NESHA STARCEVIC
2013-04-26 03:51 AM
Sharapova, the defending champion, won 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3 in a match that lasted 3:09 hours.
The Russian saved two set points in the second set before surrendering the tiebreaker, in which she had one of her eight double-faults. She also had eight aces.
Sharapova, who used this indoor clay tournament last year to prepare for her French Open victory, broke serve for a 4-2 lead but needed five match points to close out the encounter. The match ended when she hit a net cord that dropped into Safarova's half. Safarova reached it but could only send it back long and wide.
"I've had a few three hour games in my career, so I knew I just had to keep fighting until the end," Sharapova said. "That's when it's the time to get the game-plan going and calm down a little bit."
"Clay is one of her favorite surfaces and I knew this was going to be a tough game, so I am glad to get through. The first match of the clay-court season is always tough, it's nothing like practicing," she said.
Sharapova's quarterfinal opponent will be Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, who beat eight-seeded Russian Nadia Petrova 6-4, 6-3.
Seeded players Li Na, Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova advanced to the quarterfinals in different fashion.
The second-seeded Li swept past qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-1, 6-2, and the third-seeded Kerber defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 6-4. The fifth-seeded Kvitova rallied past 2011 champion Julia Goerges 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Kvitova is the 2011 Wimbledon champion and looking for her second title of the year.
One day after upsetting Caroline Wozniacki, Carla Suarez Navarro lost 7-5, 6-4 to Yaroslava Shvedova.
Kerber will play Shvedeva in the quarterfinals, while Li faces Kvitova.