Sharapova Rallies Back From Bagel Set to Make Semis

Defending champion Maria Sharapova overcame being routed in the first set by Jelena Jankovic to reach the semifinals of the French Open.

Sharapova beat Jankovic of Serbia 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 on a gusty main Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros in Paris.

“Jelena played such a great match, from the beginning she really was the aggressive player,” the second-seeded Russian said in a courtside interview.

Sharapova had never before won a match on the women’s WTA Tour or in a major championship after losing the first set 6-0.

“I had to erase that chapter and move forward,” she said. “I still felt like I was in the match.”

Sharapova’s next opponent is Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, the third seed from Belarus who beat No. 12 Maria Kirilenko of Russia 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 in the other women’s quarterfinal on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

In today’s men’s quarterfinals, defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain is playing Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland and top-seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia is taking on 35-year-old Tommy Haas of Germany.

Sharapova struggled to keep the ball inside the lines in the first half-hour against the former world No. 1, dropping six games in a row as she made 20 unforced errors. The 18th-seeded Jankovic, who was loudly cheered on by a small group of spectators waving the Serbian flag next to the presidential box, made only four mistakes.

Found Rhythm

Sharapova then recovered and raced to a 5-1 lead in the second set as she finally found her rhythm and halved her error count. Jankovic, a three-time semifinalist in Paris, fought back to 5-4 before Sharapova held serve to close out the set.

At 3-3 in the decider, Sharapova set up two break points with a running forehand and broke as Jankovic misfired a backhand. She won the match when the Serb sent a forehand wide.

“In the end, she was the better player,” Jankovic, who has been playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles in Paris, told reporters. “I’m a bit tired. But overall, I had an amazing tournament.”

Sharapova won her first title on the Roland Garros clay courts last year, completing the career Grand Slam of all four majors. The 26-year-old achieved global fame when she won her first Wimbledon title at 17 in 2004. She’s since become the world’s best-paid female athlete.

Sharapova and Jankovic have played against each other since they were both juniors at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida. Sharapova has lost only once to Jankovic in nine previous matches and today was their first match on red clay.

Women’s top seed Serena Williams of the U.S. and last year’s finalist Sara Errani of Italy reached the semifinals yesterday.

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