Sharapova Exits French Open as Nadal Awaits Djokovic in Quarters

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Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova leaves court defeated by Safarova. Photographer: Christophe Ena/AP Photo

Maria Sharapova was dethroned as the French Open champion by Lucie Safarova while men’s top seed Novak Djokovic will play nine-time winner Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals.

Safarova, a left-handed Czech, beat the defending champion from Russia 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in the first match of the day on the main Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros. It was Sharapova’s earliest defeat in Paris since 2010.

“Maria is an incredible player,” the 13th-seeded Safarova said in a courtside interview after the match, which was moved to Monday after rain delays. “I knew I had to play aggressive.”

Safarova produced 34 winners, including 20 on her forehand. Sharapova had 20 winners and got broken three times.

“She took the time away from me, created her angles and I didn’t,” Sharapova said in a news conference. “That was the difference today.”

Nadal defeated Jack Sock, the last American man left in the singles draw, 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, on the Court Suzanne Lenglen to become the first man to win 70 matches at Roland Garros.

Shortly after that, Djokovic reached his 24th consecutive major quarterfinal with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 defeat of France’s Richard Gasquet.

“It will be the biggest challenge you can face on clay,” Djokovic said of Nadal, whom he’s never beaten in six meetings at Roland Garros.

The world No. 1 has dominated this season, extending his win streak to 26 matches, as Nadal has struggled. The Spaniard dropped to a decade-low No. 7 in the rankings, prompting the quarterfinal matchup with Djokovic, which falls on Nadal’s 29th birthday Wednesday.

“I have to play my best tennis,” said Nadal, who defeated the Serb in last year’s final.

Williams Power

For a set and a half, it looked like women’s top seed Serena Williams would follow Sharapova to the exit as her serve let her down against fellow American Sloane Stephens. The 33-year-old Williams, who pulled out of Rome three weeks ago because of an elbow injury, has struggled with the shot all tournament and dropped the first set in the past three matches.

A subdued Williams made 15 unforced errors and got broken three times to lose the first set against Stephens, and served to stay in the tournament at 5-4 in the second set. After breaking for a 3-2 lead in the decider, Williams was never in trouble again, winning the match as she broke for a second time in the set with a return.

“It wasn’t easy today but I tried and I tried,” Williams said after she won, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Williams’ next opponent will be Sara Errani, the 2012 finalist from Italy who earlier beat Germany’s Julia Goerges, 6-2, 6-2.

Roger Federer overcame Gael Monfils in a match played over two days to reach his 44th major quarterfinal, while Britain’s Andy Murray beat France’s Jeremy Chardy, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to set up a quarterfinal against 2013 runner-up David Ferrer of Spain.

Federer, the 2009 winner, defeated France’s Monfils 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Their match was stopped at 8:30 p.m. local time Sunday because of darkness when they were tied at one set all. With his quarterfinal against fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka scheduled for Tuesday, the 33-year-old will play three straight days. Wawrinka had a day off after winning Sunday.

“I’m still physically fresh for the back end of the tournament,” Federer said in a news conference. “Pumped up to be in the quarters again, I missed it last year.”

Every time Federer has faced Monfils in Paris, he’s gone on to reach the final.

Sharapova had been down 3-0 in the second set when Safarova handed her opponent the break back with a double fault. Serving to stay in the championships at 5-4 down, Sharapova’s double fault gave Safarova a match point, which the Czech missed with a forehand error off a high-bouncing defensive forehand. Safarova took the second match point with a blistering forehand deep inside Sharapova’s backhand corner.

Sharapova, the No. 2 seed, has won the French Open twice and played in the last three finals in Paris. Struggling with the aftermath of a heavy cold, she was coughing and sneezing during the match.

“My opponent was at a much higher level more consistently than I was, and that results in a bad day at the office,” Sharapova said, who declined to say what impact her illness had on the loss.

Safarova will play Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals after the Spaniard beat Italy’s Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck moved to her first French Open quarterfinal with a 6-1, 6-3 defeat of Romania’s Andreea Mitu. She’ll next play either Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic or Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky.

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