Russia's Maria Sharapova, a four-time runner-up in the Sony Open, returned to the semifinals Wednesday despite a patchy performance, beating...

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Sharapova beats Errani

Russia’s Maria Sharapova, a four-time runner-up in the Sony Open, returned to the semifinals Wednesday despite a patchy performance, beating Sara Errani of Italy 7-5, 7-5 in Key Biscayne, Fla. Sharapova had 57 unforced errors, including 13 double-faults, and overcame three set points in the second set.

“I made things much more difficult than they should have been,” she said.

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Sharapova next plays Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, who beat Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3.

The men’s quarterfinals featured eight Europeans for the first time, and in the opening match, No. 3 David Ferrer of Spain rallied past unseeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

In another matter, Sony Open officials unveiled plans for a $50 million project to improve the tournament site, with work scheduled to begin after next year’s event.


McIlroy tries to find form

Once the frost thawed, Rory McIlroy was back at work in Humble, Texas, trying to find a swing he could trust and repeat.

McIlroy hasn’t looked anything like the No. 1 player in golf this year, and now he’s not. That spot belongs to Tiger Woods again after winning for the third time in two months to establish himself as the favorite going into the Masters.

None of this bothers McIlroy.

He is more concerned with the path of his swing than the mathematical average of his ranking. That makes the Houston Open a place to measure progress.

“I want to get back to getting into contention in tournaments and trying to win,” McIlroy said. “I think this is a good week to try and get into contention, have a chance with the Masters coming up.”


Gomez hospitalized

Former Puerto Rican world champion boxer Wilfredo Gomez is in critical condition in a hospital in San Juan after respiratory failure, a family spokesman said. Gomez, 56, is struggling to recover from a lung infection.


Idaho joins Sun Belt

Idaho and New Mexico State announced they have accepted invitations to join the Sun Belt Conference in football only next year. Also joining the Sun Belt are Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, two of the most dominant programs in the Football Championship Subdivision. Both are moving up to Football Bowl Subdivision.


Iginla dealt to Penguins

The Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Calgary Flames longtime captain Jarome Iginla in exchange for college prospects Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski and a first-round draft pick this year.

Horse racing

Field set for richest race

A Kentucky Derby winner, a two-time Eclipse Award-winning filly and the defending champion headline a standout international field of 13 entered for Saturday’s $10 million Dubai World Cup in United Arab Emirates — the world’s richest horse race.

Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Derby winner, and two-time Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Royal Delta, along with Dullahan, will attempt to give American-based horses their first World Cup win since 2010, when the track was changed from dirt to a synthetic surface.

Monterosso, owned by Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, is back to try for a second straight World Cup win.

Animal Kingdom drew the No. 12 post, with Royal Delta — bidding to become the first filly to win the race — drawing the No. 8 post. Dullahan leaves from the No. 3 post.

In other draws, Itsmyluckyday was made the 2-1 morning-line favorite in a field of 10 for the 1-1/8-mile Florida Derby in Hallandale Beach, Fla., a key prep for the Kentucky Derby. Shanghai Bobby is the 5-2 second choice, with Fountain of Youth winner Orb the third choice at 3-1.

In New Orleans, Revolutionary was made the 3-1 favorite in a full field of 14 for Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds. Code West is the second choice at 9-2, with Palace Malice third at 5-1.

Auto racing

Logano, Hamlin talking

Roger Penske said Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin have exchanged text messages since their final-lap crash at Fontana last weekend that left Hamlin hospitalized with a fractured vertebra.

Penske, Logano’s team owner, said he’s also sent text messages to Hamlin, who is expected to miss at least six weeks but won’t need surgery.

Hamlin acknowledged he exchanged text messages with Logano. “It didn’t go well,” Hamlin told The Associated Press. “The conversation was both short and unproductive.”


• East Carolina will join the soon-to-be-renamed Big East as an all-sports member, instead of just for football.

Hjalmar Andersen, a Norwegian speedskater who won three gold medals at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, died in Oslo. He was 90.

• The famed marching band of Florida A&M may miss another year on the football field, continuing its indefinite suspension after a drum major died in a hazing ritual.

• Former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich of Germany said on his blog he played a role in “what happened in cycling” but did not offer a clear confession about doping.

Seattle Times news services