Sharapova daring to dream
Maria Sharapova believes she’s closing in on filling in the final piece of her career Grand Slam puzzle after marching into the last four with a dominant display over Estonian Kaia Kanepi.
After taking more than three hours to see off Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova in the fourth round, the world No.2 was back to her best in Paris yesterday as she ousted Kanepi 6-2, 6-3 in just 74 minutes.
That victory set up a clash with reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who ended Kazakh qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova’s stunning run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory.
But while Kvitova will be a considerable step up from the 23rd-ranked Kanepi, Sharapova insists she is yet to hit her straps on the red dirt of Roland Garros.
“I’m happy with the way I improved in this match,” said the Russian, who’s aiming to become the 10th woman to win all four Grand Slam trophies. “I love coming back here, love challenging myself to get further every year and I hope this is this year.”
Having struggled on clay for most of her career, Sharapova has worked tirelessly to boost her chances of adding the French Open crown to her major triumphs at Wimbledon (2004), New York (2006) and Melbourne (2008).
And it’s certainly paid off with the 25-year-old 15-1 on clay this year, including two titles in Stuttgart and Rome, while she’s also projected to move to No.1 in the rankings if she advances through to the final tomorrow.
Sliding around on the saturated red dirt in Paris, she never looked troubled against Kanepi, who made her fourth Grand Slam quarter-final but struggled to find her groove in this match-up.
Meanwhile, Kvitova was given a massive scare in her clash with Shvedova, the 22-year-old Czech battling back from a break down in the final set to end her opponent’s giant-killing run.
Two days after conquering defending champion Li Na, doubles specialist Shvedova looked set to become the first player from her country, and the first qualifier, to reach the semi-finals after holding a 4-2 advantage in the third.
But the fourth seed kept her focus through driving rain to complete victory after her 142nd-ranked opponent drilled a backhand wide on match point.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Kvitova, who finished with five aces. “My serve helped me and I played my aggressive game.”