Tennis

Lauren Davis loss stings ... literally

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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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KEY BISCAYNE, FLA.

Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1, cruised through to round four; Maria Sharapova, the world No. 2, had to fight a little harder to get there. But for Lauren Davis, the third round of the Sony Open proved both disappointing and painful.

She got stung on the butt by a wasp. Then she drew blood on her thigh with an errant finger nail.

The 19-year-old who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, insists the wasp sting did not have an effect on her 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 loss to Alize Cornet of France, but the heat could not have helped.

Both players left the court in wheelchairs. With on-court temperatures soaring into the 90s and the humidity high, WTA rules kicked in and the players were given a 10-minute heat break at the end of the second set. But by the end of the third they were both suffering and needed assistance.

It has been an eventful few days for Davis, who got into the draw as a lucky loser when Viktoria Azarenka withdrew and then saved three match points before beating her friend Madison Keys. Then she got off to a great start against the experienced 36th-ranked Cornet, winning the first five games.

“But then my energy level started to drop and she broke back before I actually won the set,” said Davis. “It got a lot hotter and the points were long. She played well in the end and just wore me down.”

Davis works with Chris Evert’s brother John as well as a personal coach at the Academy, and says it was the best decision she ever made to move there when she was 16 from Illinois.

“I’ve met so many new people and I’ve had the opportunity to hit with Chris on occasion,” she said. “She is an amazing person. You learn so much just listening to her.”

Sharapova, who grew up on the other side of Florida at Bradenton and used to drive down with her family to watch the matches on Key Biscayne as a kid, had a more successful time battling the wind and the heat on the Stadium Court, earning 6-4, 6-2 victory over fellow Russian Elena Vesnina, who had beaten her the last time they met, at Beijing in 2010.

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But Sharapova was still recovering from shoulder surgery then, and the reigning French Open champion is a much stronger player now. Buffeted by some of Vesnina’s returns as well as the wind, Sharapova trailed 1-3 in the first set and was thankful to come out on top after a grueling seventh game that eventually saw her break Vesnina for the second time. Sharapova agreed it was a pivotal moment of the match.

“Yeah, absolutely,” she said. “I had been 1-3 down and it was a very important game. After breaking back I felt I had a bit of momentum. Just one of those days when you know you might not be playing your best tennis. But I got through.”

But No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber did not. Playing with great authority, the 27th-ranked Sorana Cirstea of Romania took out the German in emphatic style 6-4, 6-0.

Djokovic barely broke sweat despite the temperature as he swept past the Indian, Somdev Devvarman, twice an NCAA singles title holder while at the University of Virginia, 6-2. 6-4.

Later Sunday, James Blake produced some superb shot making under the lights and seemed poised for victory when he led 5-4 on serve in the final set against Albert Ramos — but then a sudden rash of errors handed the Spaniard a crucial break and he served out 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory.

Blake, a former world No. 4 now ranked 95, was out-hit in a fast-flowing first set that saw his left-handed opponent willing to take him on during blazing backcourt rallies.

But Blake refused to back down and, sticking to the style that suits him best, continued to crank up huge forehands and dominated the match until those final, fatal mistakes.

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