Paris - Maria Sharapova survived a nightmare start to hold on to her French
Open crown with a 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over tough Jelena Jankovic in a
compelling quarter-final tie on Wednesday.
The Russian was all
over the place for a set and 30 minutes, but with the Roland Garros exit
door beckoning, she steadied her nerves enough to start applying the
firepower she needed to derail a brave challenge from the Serb.
defending champion and second seed will play third seed Victoria
Azarenka of Belarus, who defeated Maria Kirilenko of Russia, for a place
in Saturday's final.
"She played such a great match from the beginning and was very aggressive," Sharapova said of her opponent.
knew after the first set that I had to change things around. I just had
to erase the chapter and move forward. I still felt I was in the match
and I broke her in the first game (of the second).
In what was a
matchup of two former world number ones, Jankovic, who has clawed her
way back into the world top 20 this year, got off to the prefect start
with three straight breaks of serve to take the first set 6-0 in just 29
It was just the fourth time in her Grand Slam career
that Sharapova had lost a set 6-0, but she could have no complaints,
having committed 20 unforced errors to just two from Jankovic.
Russian started to find some consistency with her groundstrokes at the
start of the second set and she also got help from her opponent, who
served up her first double fault of the match on break point.
task on hand for Sharapova then was how to hold her own serve, having
dropped three straight, and she managed that in the next game to lead
The match had suddenly turned on its head with Sharapova
dominating rallies with her heavier firepower and she eased out into a
Jankovic broke back once, but could not do so a second time as Sharapova levelled the match to force a deciding set.
two lop-sided sets, it turned out to be a knife-edge affair with
Sharapova making the key breakthrough at 3-3 when she broke serve with a
sequence of big hits.
She then won the next two games to take her unbeaten run at Roland Garros to 12.
World number three Azarenka reached her first French Open semi-final on Wednesday when she defeated friend and former doubles partner, Maria Kirilenko of Russia, 7-6, (7/3), 6-2.
The 23-year-old won the first Grand Slam of the year when she claimed the Australian Open.
French Open quarter-final results (x denotes seeded player):
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x3) bt Maria Kirilenko (RUS x12) 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
Maria Sharapova (RUS x2) bt Jelena Jankovic (SRBx18) 0-6, 6-4, 6-3