PARIS: Defending champion Li Na crashed out of the French Open onMonday while Maria Sharapova survived a deluge of errors on abitterly cold day in Paris to struggle into the quarter-finals. Li, who was Asia's first Grand Slam singles champion when she tookthe 2011 title, lost her crown at the fourth round stage, goingdown 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 to Kazakh qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova, theworld 142. World number seven Li was attempting to be the first French Openwomen's champion to successfully defend the title since JustineHenin in 2007. But after a confident start on Suzanne Lenglen court, the30-year-old Chinese endured a spectacular meltdown in the secondset and never recovered, notching 41 errors and ending up beingbroken seven times by her 24-year-old opponent. |
"I lost one match so don't try to put me down," Li, who hasn't wona title since her Paris victory, snapped at a tense post-match newsconference. "This is tennis. I will try to find the reason why I lost." Shvedova, who was a quarter-finalist in 2010, had to come throughqualifying after a knee injury in 2011 saw her ranking plummet to206. She will now face either fourth-seeded Wimbledon champion PetraKvitova or unseeded American Varvara Lepchenko for a place in thesemi-finals. "I was nervous in the first set and was making mistakes, but I thentried to attack more," said Shvedova.
"I knew she was the defending champion and she had all thepressure. I had come from qualifying, was playing my seventh matchand I just told myself to enjoy the day and try and my best." Sharapova struggled into the quarter-finals, defeating Czechveteran Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in an error-scarredclash which featured 21 breaks of serve. The Russian second seed, seeking a Roland Garros title to completea career Grand Slam, goes on to face either Estonian 23rd seed KaiaKanepi or Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands for a place in thesemi-finals. But she will be hoping for an improvement in conditions inWednesday's quarter-final after a stiff wind and bitter cold, whichsaw temperatures dip to a chilly 14 degrees, played havoc with hergame, temper and movement.
The statistics of Monday's match on Philippe Chatrier court told agrim tale. Sharapova finished with 53 unforced errors to her opponent's 48 andserved up 12 double faults against seven. With serve constantly under siege, Sharapova carved out a massive31 break points in total, converting 12. "She played extremely well, she's a dangerous player," saidSharapova of an opponent she had beaten in straight sets on clay inMadrid last month.
"The conditions were difficult, but it was a good test for me. Ihad the chance to finish it in two sets. I came out strong in thethird and it's nice to be in the quarters again." Sharapova, twice a semi-finalist and the favourite for the titlefollowing the exits of top seed Victoria Azarenka, Li and SerenaWilliams, rarely settled in the three hour 11 minute encounter. Twice she argued with umpire Julie Kjendlie while also taking anembarrassing, bottom-first tumble on to the damp red clay midwayduring the ninth game of the second set. In a neat snapshot of the match, Sharapova double-faulted on matchpoint in the seventh game of the final set; Zakopalova suffered asimilar lapse in the next game to hand her opponent victory.
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