Tennis: Sharapova reaches 4th round at French Open

AP, Saturday 28 May 2011

With the field getting weaker and Maria Sharapova getting better, everything appears to be coming together for the seventh-seeded Russian at the French Open.

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova played her best match at this year's tournament on Saturday, dominating Yung-Jan Chan of Taiwan 6-2, 6-3 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

"I felt like I was in control most of the match. I only got broken once I believe in the second set, and I served really well throughout the match," Sharapova said. "So I was quite pleased after playing a three-set match that I had a quicker one today." In the last round, Sharapova survived a scare against French wild card Caroline Garcia. She lost the first set and then trailed 4-1 in the second before winning 11 straight games.

With 2002 French Open champion Serena Williams missing due to injury and top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki and No. 2 Kim Clijsters already eliminated from the tournament, Sharapova now has a better chance to complete a career Grand Slam.

But looking too far ahead is not on Sharapova's agenda.

"You just try to fight for every point in order to win the match. And then when you do, you have the next match ahead of you, and that keeps going," the 24-year-old Russian said.

"Every day is different, and you face different opponents. And you can never be overly confident, because if you are, then I don't think you push yourself." In the fourth round, Sharapova will be up against No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska. The Pole beat Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-4, 6-4.

"It will be a really tough match because I think this is one of her best surfaces," said Sharapova, who lost to Radwanska in three sets at the 2007 U.S. Open. "She's a really good mover and moves well on clay and gets a lot of balls back."

With the top two seeded players out before the round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in the Open era, Sharapova is one of three remaining women with Grand Slam titles. Defending champion Francesca Schiavone and 2009 French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova are the others.

"Well, the draw is very open," Wickmayer said after losing to Radwanska. "Sharapova plays very well right now.

She might win." Australian Open finalist Li Na, who this year became the first Chinese player to get to the final at a major tournament, also advanced to the fourth round Saturday.

The sixth-seeded Li defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2, 6-2 and will next face No. 9 Petra Kvitova, who beat Vania King of the United States 6-4, 6-2.

Also Saturday, No. 4 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus defeated No. 30 Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-3, 6-2, Ekaterina Makarova of Russia beat No. 16 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4, 7-5 and No. 15 Andrea Petkovic of Germany beat No. 24 Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

But if Sharapova can keep controlling points like she did Saturday, she may finally add the elusive French Open to her championship titles from Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open _ even if the grind of the tour can wear down top players, like top-ranked Rafael Nadal said it has.

"We started playing tennis from a very young age, and we've done this for almost all our lives," Sharapova said.

"So we feel like we're on this sort of hamster carousel and we just keep going."

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