x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Sharapova steers clear of seeds of doubt at French Open

The No 2 women's seed at the French Open says she pays little attention to how the draw lines up, saying 'you can't worry' who the opponent will be.

Russia's Maria Sharapova hits a return to Japan's Ayumi Morita.
Russia's Maria Sharapova hits a return to Japan's Ayumi Morita.

Maria Sharapova has seen her title rivals drop around her at the French Open but she is not about to start counting her chickens.

The first week at Roland Garros has already seen one of the biggest upsets in tennis, Serena Williams losing to Virginie Razzano in round one, while third seed Agnieszka Radwanska was easily beaten by Svetlana Kuznetsova yesterday.

Sharapova had been seeded to meet Williams in the quarter-finals, but she is expecting many tough hurdles to be placed in her way if she is to lift the French Open title for the first time.

The second seed and title favourite said: "It's tough to be in the first round of a tournament and think, this person lost, someone that you could face in the quarter-final of a tournament. I think that's just a really wrong way to look at things.

"If you're thinking like that, then you're at a big disadvantage, because, no matter who you play, if you get to the quarter-finals you have to play at a high level.

"You can't worry about if it's Serena or somebody else across the net. You have to beat them. So if somebody beat her to get to that point, then they're playing great and you have to go and try and beat them."

Sharapova eased into the third round yesterday with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Ayumi Morita in a match that was postponed from Thursday because of John Isner's marathon loss to Paul-Henri Mathieu.

The Russian said: "It was a pretty long day yesterday. I feel like I warmed up 20 times for this match.

"It was one of those days where you just want to get on the court and then you're at the courts all day, and sitting, waiting around, eating, sleeping. It's a good way to put someone into retirement. It was nice to get out there and finish it and get in the third round."

Kuznetsova has had a dreadful season, winning only three matches in three months coming into the tournament, but the 2009 champion was in superb form today, thrashing Radwanska 6-1, 6-2.

The Russian, who seems to find her form at Roland Garros, said: "I have not played so well in a long time so I'm really happy about it.

"I've practised the right things and I'm very confident with my game. I'm trying to play more forehands, trying to dictate and playing with more speed. This is the game I was playing when I won the US Open and I won the French Open."

In contrast, Radwanska has had a brilliant season and could have gone to No 1 in the world by lifting the title here, but she has now lost six times in a row to Kuznetsova.

The Pole gave credit to her opponent, saying: "She was just playing too good. She was playing very aggressive on both sides. She just had an answer for everything that I was trying to do."

Kuznetsova next faces Italy's Sara Errani, who knocked out another former champion, Ana Ivanovic. The 2008 winner looked to be cruising in the first set but clay-court specialist Errani, seeded 21st, turned things around to win 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Sixth seed Sam Stosur, the losing finalist in 2010, continued her good run with a 6-3 6-3 victory over 27th seed Nadia Petrova. American teenager Sloane Stephens reached the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time with an impressive 6-3, 6-2 victory over France's Mathilde Johansson.

The 19 year old is part of a promising new generation of Americansand she admitted cutting back on fizzy drinks has helped her form. "If you only knew what was happening three and a half weeks ago, I mean, the only way to go was up," said the world No 70.

"So my mom came and my aunt came, and that helped me a lot, because I didn't know what was going on. I was being 19, and I think now I am being 29. I was drinking like Fantas twice a day.

"I was like, whoa, that's a lot of sugar. So I stopped doing that."

Fifteenth seed Dominika Cibulkova saw off Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2, 6-1, while Petra Martic trounced 29th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues by the same scoreline.

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