Friday 22 September 2017

Sharapova aims for full Slam collection as rivals crash out

Paul Newman at Roland Garros

Serena Williams, who has won her last seven matches against Maria Sharapova, is out of the French Open and world No 3, Agnieszka Radwanska, the only other player who has beaten Sharapova in her last four events, lost yesterday.

So, after four and a half years without a Grand Slam title, the 25-year-old Russian's French Open prospects are looking brighter with every day.

Sharapova waited in vain on Thursday to start her second-round match against Japan's Ayumi Morita -- Paul-Henri Mathieu's marathon victory over John Isner denied her the chance to get on court -- but the Russian wasted no time when she returned yesterday.

The world No 2 crushed Morita 6-1 6-1 in an hour, which was 12 minutes more than she had needed to beat Alexandra Cadantu 6-0 6-0 in her opening match.

"It was a pretty long day yesterday," Sharapova said with a smile. "I feel like I warmed up 20 times for this match. Yesterday was one of those days where you just want to get on the court. You're at the courts all day, sitting, waiting around, eating, sleeping. It's a good way to put someone into retirement."

Sharapova once said she played on clay like "a cow on ice," but the former Wimbledon champion has grown more comfortable on the surface. In her three clay-court tournaments leading up to Roland Garros she won titles in Stuttgart and Rome and lost only to Williams in the final in Madrid.

Among her victims were Li Na, the French Open champion, Ana Ivanovic, the winner in 2008, Sam Stosur, the beaten finalist two years ago, Victoria Azarenka, the world No 1, and Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion.

The French Open is the only Grand Slam title Sharapova has yet to win, however she dismissed the suggestion that winning here would be special because it would complete her collection.

"This is such a big and important event for us and one where I've always wanted to be a champion," she said. "It's still a goal of mine and something I look forward to, but not because it's the one I haven't won, but because it's Roland Garros."

It is eight years since Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon as a 17-year-old. She added the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008, but shoulder surgery later that year kept her off the court for the next 10 months. Reaching the semi-finals here last year signalled a return to form and she went on to reach the finals at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

She is back up to No 2 in the world rankings and victory here could see her return to the No 1 position for the first time in four years.

Sharapova is one of a shrinking number of top players who have resisted the temptation to broadcast to the world on Twitter. The Russian said she liked Facebook -- which she uses "more like a travel journal for me than anything else" -- and texting, but did not have time for Twitter.

"I don't need to let the world know that I'm at this restaurant," she said. "I feel like it's just too much every day to tweet. I write enough texts. I can't even imagine what it would be like if I tweeted constantly."

Meanwhile, the imperious swagger was absent as Roger Federer recovered from a mid-match wake-up call to move into the fourth round with a 6-3 4-6 6-2 7-5 victory over plucky Frenchman Nicolas Mahut.

After nonchalantly striding through the opening set amid effortless calm, Federer suffered a second-set wobble as the world No 89 responded to a partisan home crowd to convert his first break point of the match to level.

However, as the glimmer of an upset began to poke through the sombre Parisian sky, Federer righted the listing ship, breaking twice in the third before edging out a resilient Mahut in the fourth.

The Swiss No 3 seed will now face Belgian David Goffin who beat Poland's Lukasz Kubot. (© Independent News Service)

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