PARIS - Global superstar Maria Sharapova and unheralded YaroslavaShvedova attempt to set-up a French Open semi-final date onWednesday spurred on by having conquered career-threateninginjuries. Sharapova, who needs a Roland Garros title to complete a careerGrand Slam, saw her meteoric rise halted by shoulder surgery whichsidelined her for almost a year until mid-2009. Shvedova, meanwhile, injured her knee while on Hopman Cup duty forKazakhstan in January 2010, and missed the Australian Open. Although she won the women's doubles at Wimbledon with Vania King,her singles ranking collapsed to 206 from a place in the top 30. That condemned her to play qualifiers at this French Open and ifshe makes it to the last four, she will be the first qualifier toreach the semi-finals. |
Sharapova, the world number two, is now the overwhelming favouriteto capture the title after the early exits of top seed VictoriaAzarenka, defending champion Li Na and former winner SerenaWilliams. Her 2004 Wimbledon triumph, 2006 US Open victory and 2008 title atthe Australian Open all came before her shoulder surgery. "I think I'm just much more grateful today for what I'm doing andwhat I have, more than anything," said Sharapova, who for the firsttime faces Estonian 23rd seed Kaia Kanepi for a place in the lastfour. "So now when I'm playing, I really feel like I'm much morepositive.
Overall, I see my career much more positive than I lookedat it back then, especially during the tough days. "In the past I would always have to save myself, because knowingthat it's seven matches. I never felt like I recovered that well.But I think with experience and just being physically stronger, I'mmuch better at that." Sharapova, who came into Paris with claycourt titles in Stuttgartand Rome, cruised through her first three rounds for the loss ofjust five games. But she struggled over three sets to beat experienced Czech KlaraZakopalova in a chilly, windswept fourth round on Monday, finishingwith 53 unforced errors and 12 double faults, including one onmatch point. Shvedova, now the world number 142, was a quarter-finalist in Parisin 2010, but she admitted that the last year had been tough.
"I had the injury and surgery right after Australia. I wasrecovering a very long time and when I came back my knee wasbothering me for half a year," said the 24-year-old Moscow native. "Then my coach left, and I had some tough periods mentally. I wasvery down and lonely. I was playing doubles but lost all my singlespoints.
"Since September I got a new coach (Emiliano Redondi) and he helpedme out a lot. For this year we set a goal to get my ranking back,and I was working hard." As she battled to rebuild her singles ranking, she found herselfplaying humble, third-tier events in Mexico. It may have been intimate and friendly, but for a player used tobeing in the big events, it was also a professional endurance test. "Even though it was nice atmosphere and there was no superstars andwe were like big a big family, I wished I could come back here." Shvedova tackles Czech fourth seed and Wimbledon champion PetraKvitova for a place in the semi-finals. The two have never playedeach other before.
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