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Sharapova relying on senior service

india Updated: May 29, 2011 12:31 IST
AFP
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Maria Sharapova believes her Grand Slam pedigree, which has brought her three majors, could carry her through to a first French Open final next weekend.

The Russian superstar, who has already won Wimbledon, the US and Australian Opens, has never got beyond the semifinals at Roland Garros, her 1.88m frame often betraying her discomfort on the slow red clay surface.

But buoyed by having captured her first tier one claycourt title in Rome on the eve of the French Open and with world number two Kim Clijsters already out of Roland Garros, Sharapova realises that 2011 could be her year.

"No matter what position I am in my career, I have the experience. I've been on the tour many years. I have played many matches. I've won some tough ones, lost tough ones," said the seventh seed.

"I have that in my mind when I'm playing current matches. It's certainly helpful to have big wins at Grand Slams and to have tough losses from which I've come back and made myself stronger."

Sharapova had to recover from a set and 1-4 down to defeat French 17-year-old, and world 188, Caroline Garcia in three sets to reach the last 32 on Thursday.

That was the same day that Clijsters, the reigning US and Australian Open champion, suffered a shock exit.

It left Sharapova as the only Grand Slam title winner in her half of the draw; defending champion Francesca Schiavone and 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova are in the other section.

On Saturday, Sharapova put her scare at the hands of Garcia behind her to comfortably reach the last 16 with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Taiwan qualifier Chan Yung-Jan.

The Russian will face Agnieszka Radwanska, the 12th seed, for a place in the quarter-finals, boasting a 6-1 career record against the Pole.

"It'll be a really tough match because I think this is one of her best surfaces," said Sharapova. "She's a really good mover and gets a lot of balls back."

Sharapova, dressed in lemon and sporting earrings courtesy of Tiffany, raced to a 4-0 lead in the first set, courtesy of two breaks, and took the opener 6-2, aided by the 21-year-old Chan's five double faults.

Another break in the fifth game allowed her to stretch her advantage to 3-2, before Chan surprsingly hit back for 3-3.

It was a brief respite as Sharapova demolished the Taiwanese serve again before another hold for 5-3.

A wild smash from Chan, who had never previously made it out of the first round in Paris, sealed the win for Sharapova in the next game.

Sharapova, now in her 10th year as a professional, said she sympathised with Rafael Nadal's observation earlier in the day that despite not quite 25 years old, he felt like he'd been on the tour for "100 years".

"We've done this for almost all our lives, so we feel like we're on this sort of hamster carousel and we just keep going," she said.

"I think that's why it feels like every year we come back and like: 'Oh, nothing changes', and next year you come back, 'Oh, nothing changes'.

"Same old same press conference room, same court, same people. That makes you feel old."

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