PARIS // The defending champion Li Na of China crashed out of the French Open today while Maria Sharapova overcame a catalogue of errors on a bitterly cold day in Paris to struggle into the quarter-finals for the sixth time.
Li, who was Asia's first grand slam singles champion when she took the 2011 title, lost her crown at the fourth round stage, going down 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 to the Kazakh qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova, the world 142.
Li, the world No 7, was attempting to be the first French Open women's champion to successfully defend the title since Justine Henin in 2007.
But after a confident start, the 30 year old endured a meltdown in the second set and never recovered, notching 41 errors and ending up being broken seven times by her 24 year old opponent.
"I lost one match so don't try to put me down," Li, who has not won a title since her Paris victory, snapped at a post-match news conference. "This is tennis. I will try to find the reason why I lost."
Shvedova, who was also a quarter-finalist in 2010, had to come through qualifying after an injury-hit 2011 saw her ranking plummet at one stage to 206.
Sharapova struggled into the quarter-finals, defeating the Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 in an error-scarred clash which featured 21 breaks of serve.
"She played extremely well, she's a dangerous player," said Sharapova of an opponent she had beaten in straight sets on clay in Madrid last month. "The conditions were difficult today, but it was a good test for. I had the chance to finish it in two. I came out strong in the third set and it's nice to be in the quarters again."
The Russian second seed is seeking a Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam. But she will be hoping for an improvement in conditions in Wednesday's quarter-final after a stiff wind and bitter cold played havoc with her game, temper and movement.
The statistics of today's match told a grim tale.
Sharapova finished with 53 unforced errors to her opponent's 48 and served up 12 double faults against seven. With serve constantly under siege, Sharapova carved out a massive 31 break points in total, converting 12.
Sharapova, the favourite for the title after the exits of the top seed Victoria Azarenka, Li and Serena Williams, rarely settled in the three hour 11 minute encounter.
Twice she argued with the umpire Julie Kjendlie while also taking an embarrassing, bottom-first tumble on to the damp red clay midway during the ninth game of the second set.
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