KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Even by the standards of Roger Federer, Thursday’s win was easy.
Federer advanced to the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson Open when Gilles Simon retired with a stiff neck after losing the first three games.
Federer’s opponent Friday will be the winner of the quarterfinal Thursday night between No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 7 Tomas Berdych. Federer beat Nadal for the Key Biscayne title early in their rivalry in 2005, and they haven’t played each other in the United States since.
Maria Sharapova overcame a slow start by winning 11 consecutive games to reach the women’s final, beating Andrea Petkovic, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2.
Sharapova seeks her first title since May 2010, and her first at Key Biscayne. Her opponent Saturday will be the winner of the match Thursday night between 2009 champion Victoria Azarenka and No. 3-seeded Vera Zvonareva.
The No. 3-seeded Federer won 12 of the 15 points against Simon, and the match lasted only 10 minutes. Simon talked with a trainer during the changeover before conceding by shaking hands with Federer.
Simon then walked off the court to jeers from the stadium crowd.
“He told me he woke up this morning with a stiff neck and couldn’t move,” Federer said. “It’s obviously disappointing when it happens in front of an audience. You get booed off the court — that’s rough. It’s not the way you want to move on, but look, I’ll take those because they happen quite rarely.”
Sharapova double-faulted three times to lose her first service game, and as the No. 21-seeded Petkovic pulled ahead, the crowd began to anticipate another Petko Dance, her victory jig that became a tournament staple in the past week.
Instead it was Sharapova celebrating at the end, fists raised as she let out a jubilant scream.
The No. 16-seeded Sharapova waged the turnaround by cutting down on the errors that plagued her early in the match. She was aggressive returning Petkovic’s serve and broke seven times, and she moved well despite turning her left ankle late in her quarterfinal win.
Petkovic had 11 game points in the second set but failed to convert any as the match began to slip away.
Sharapova, a former No. 1 player who has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, began this year ranked 18th and will return to the top 10 next week. She was the Key Biscayne runner-up in 2005 and 2006, and missed the tournament in 2008-10 because of injuries.