By Nick Georgandis
As inexplicably as she disappeared from prominence in 2010, so has Dinara Safina suddenly returned to it in 2011.
On Monday night at Indian Wells, Safina overcame a staggering 16 double faults to upset world No. 4 Samantha Stosur, 7-6(2), 6-4 and advance to the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open.
It was Safina's first win over a Top 5 player since she defeated No. 5 Venus Williams in the semifinals at Rome in 2009 while ranked No. 1 in the world.
Taking just under two hours to finish, it was Safina's fourth win in five matches with Stosur. Ten of Safina's double faults came in the second set, but she also broke Stosur's serve three times to take the win. It was Stosur's second third-round flame out at a major tournament this year. She fell to Petra Kvitova in the third round at the Australian Open in January.
It was business as usual for the other three late women's matches, with higher seeds Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova all advancing.
Petrova had the most difficult time, forced to rally from down a set to American wild card Christina Mchale, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Mchale deftly saved four break points in the first set, but wasn't so lucky from then on. She was broken twice in the second set and twice more in the third, nevertheless a strong performance by the 18-year-old ranked 112th in the world coming in to the field.
Eighth-seeded Azarenka ruined the potential all-Radwanska fourth-round match by knocking off younger sister Urszula 7-6(3), 6-3. She did this despite six double faults and only two aces, but broke Radawanska four times to move on and face Azarenka will take on Agnieskza Radwanska in the fourth round. Petrova will face either qualifer Lucie Hradecka or Shaui Peng in the fourth round.
Sixteenth-seeded Maria Sharapova knocked off Arianne Rezai in convincing fashion, 6-2, 6-2. Sharapova was sharp on her first serves, hitting 24 of 29 for winners, and broke Rezai five times in eight attempts. Sharapova was broken in her first game, but rallied from there to take the victory in 73 minutes.
“I started like I didn't have my cup of coffee or something, didn't have my peeps around, so that was disappointing,” she said. “I got it together.” Sharapova will take on Safina in the fourth round in a battle of former No. 1s.