Cyprus Mail

Sharapova survives first-set meltdown to reach semis

A hail of unforced errors could not melt away Maria Sharapova’s French Open dreams as the Russian kept alive hopes of retaining the title with a 0-6 6-4 6-3 win over Jelena Jankovic in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Sharapova had entered the contest with a 7-1 win-loss record over her old sparring partner from the Bollettieri Academy but no one would have guessed following her first-set meltdown when 20 unforced errors flew off her racket.

A slight tactical mistake from Jankovic in the opening game of the second set, when she opted to hit the ball at Sharapova rather than go for an outright winner, threw the Serbian off balance and she went on to drop her serve and the set.

That left the 18th-seeded Jankovic to resort to her usual habit of muttering away to herself as second seed Sharapova kept her eye on the ball to break in the seventh game of the third.

A forehand into the tramlines from Jankovic handed Sharapova a place in the semi-finals for the third year running and a date with third-seeded Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka who beat Russian Maria Kirilenko 7-6 (3) 6-2.

Former world number one Azarenka has now reached the last four in all the grand-slam events.

The Belarussian took the opening set after 76 minutes, with Kirilenko taking a medical time out to apparently have her lower back treated.

The double Australian Open champion broke early in the second set and held firm, wrapping up the win on her opponent’s serve after nearly two hours.

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