Sharapova battles in French win
PARIS — On days like these, when so little goes right and so much goes awry, Maria Sharapova tosses away the strategies and scouting reports her coach devises and, well, does whatever it takes to win.
Locked in a three-set, 3-hour struggle at a wet and windy French Open on Monday, Sharapova's right, racket-swinging wrist was aching — and that, she insisted, was the least of her problems.
There was the tumble to her backside that Sharapova could laugh about later. The exasperating line calls and what the second-seeded Russian considered an obstinate chair umpire. The 12 double-faults, plus 41 other errors of Sharapova's own doing. The nine breaks she allowed, including three while serving for the match. The unseeded foe who wouldn't go away.
"It was," Sharapova summed up, "a good test for me."
Certainly the first she's faced at Roland Garros this year. After dropping a total of five games in three matches that averaged less than an hour each, Sharapova moved into the quarterfinals at the only Grand Slam tournament she hasn't won by dispensing with tactics and swinging away until she finally pulled out a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory over 44th-ranked Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic.
"I'm useless with game plans. That's probably the one thing (coach Thomas Hogstedt) just gets so frustrated with me about," Sharapova said. "I go out there and I do my own thing, and then he's like, after the match, 'Really? What's the point? I mean, what's the point of having me?' But I apologized when I hired him, in advance, so he's OK."
"It's good we have a day off tomorrow so we can step it up again," he said. "This was clearly a match where she was not playing as well as she should."
Sharapova and Hogstedt both said her wrist, which she repeatedly flexed during the match and fiddled with at her news conference afterward, shouldn't be an issue. Something else that might not be? The opposition. It seems that nearly every day a potential roadblock is swept out of the draw, from Serena Williams, to Francesca Schiavone, to Li Na.
Indeed, Sharapova now has one thing in common with every woman left: None has won the French Open.
Her next opponent, No. 23 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, hasn't been beyond the quarterfinals at any Grand Slam tournament but got to that round for the fourth time by defeating unseeded Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.
Defending champion Li's surprising exit came against Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, an eyeglasses-wearing doubles specialist ranked 142nd in singles who needed to go through qualifying rounds to enter the main draw.
"I have to find the reason why I lose the match," said Li, China's only Grand Slam singles champion. "I will find out. But not today."
On the men's side, it's the first Grand Slam tournament since the 1984 French Open with the top six seeds in the quarterfinals.
Rafael Nadal's pursuit of a record seventh French Open title rolled on with another rout, this one a 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 victory over his pal, Juan Monaco of Argentina, who's not exactly a slouch — he was seeded 13th and has won five clay-court titles.
But Nadal is 49-1 for his career at the French Open and might be better than ever. He's lost a total of 19 games so far, the fewest through four completed matches at Roland Garros since Guillermo Vilas' 16 games in 1982.
"I feel really comfortable, really at ease," Nadal said. "When the tournament is over, I'll tell you if this was my best Roland Garros or not. For the time being, I'm still playing. So far, so good. But we'll see. Things could change."
He'll take a 7-0 head-to-head record into an all-Spanish quarterfinal against No. 12 Nicolas Almagro.