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Sharapova crashes out in 4th round

World No 1 Sharapova joins list of casualties as she loses to Russia's Dinara Safina 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 in the fourth round.
Agencies | By HT Correspondent, Paris
UPDATED ON JUN 03, 2008 09:18 AM IST

Russia's Dinara Safina mounted an astonishing comeback from being a set and 2-5 down to send top seed Maria Sharapova crashing out of the French Open in an epic fourth round battle on Monday.

Safina triumphed 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, saving a match point along the way, in a tie which lasted almost three hours and will now meet fellow Russian Elena Dementieva, the seventh seed, for a place in the semi-finals.

The victory echoed Safina's three-set win over Sharapova at the same stage in 2006 when she recovered from 1-5 down in the final set to triumph.

Sharapova, who still needs a French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, went into Monday's tie still searching for top gear on the testing Paris clay on which her best performance came last year when she made the semi-final.

Sharapova broke to lead 4-3 in the first set when a Safina double fault, topped off by a crunching crosscourt backhand, put the top seed in charge.

However, Safina carved out five break points in the eighth game to level the tie on a damp, humid Suzanne Lenglen Court.

Safina then squandered two set points in the tie-break when she led 6/4, and Sharapova made her pay by claiming the next four points to take the opener when her opponent went wide with a lob. Safina carved out a break in the first game of the second set before heavy rain forced the players off court for 90 minutes.

When they returned, Safina held serve to lead 2-0, but Sharapova then ran away with the next five games to lead 5-2 before her 22-year-old opponent mounted an astonishing recovery. Safina saved a match point in the ninth game before pulling level at 5-5.

There was another dramatic twist in the tie-break where the battling Safina came back from 2/5 down to claim the next five points and level the match when a Sharapova approach took a net cord and went out.

After breaking each other in the opening two games of the decider, Safina held her nerve on a fourth break point in the sixth game to lead 4-2 and backed it up to go 5-2. A shellshocked Sharapova saved a match point in the next game but then handed Safina a famous win when she hit a dispirited forehand long.

Roger made to work hard

Top seed Roger Federer set up a French Open quarter-final against old rival Fernando Gonzalez on Monday but he was below par in a 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 win over Frenchman Julien Benneteau in a rain-hit tie.

Gonzalez had looked impressive earlier in the day when he swept past the final American, Robby Ginepri, in straight sets 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-1.

The Swiss star has dropped just one set en route to the last eight, but he will have cause for concern over how he struggled to kill off his lowly-ranked opponent. "He played a great match today but it was tough for both us with the conditions," said the top seed.

The unseeded Benneteau had played more sets than any other player to get the last 16 (14) and he was not expected to pose any problems for the world No. 1 who won their only previous meeting in straight sets in Cincinnati last year.

But in each of the first two sets he broke Federer's serve when trailing 3-5 only to lose both of them by 6-4 and 7-5.

At that stage heavy rain brought an abrupt end to proceedings and it took ninety minutes before they got back onto a packed Philippe Chatrier Centre Court. With warm sunshine replacing the gloomy skies that marked the earlier action, Federer again went a break up to lead 3-1, but again Benneteau battled back to level at 3-3.

The Swiss maestro was finding it hard to put away his world-ranked 55th opponent, letting slip a match point at 5-4 up but two games later he finished it off with a smash at the net.

Fourth round: Important results

Men’s: Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) bt Robby Ginepri (USA) 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-1, Roger Federer (SUI) bt Julien Benneteau (FRA) 6-4, 7-5, 7-5.

Women: Dinara Safina (Rus) beat Maria Sharapova (Rus) 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 6-2, Elena Dementieva (RUS) bt Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.

Doubles third round: A. Medina Garrigues (ESP)/Virginia Ruano Pascual (ESP) bt Zi Yan (CHN)/ Jie Zheng (CHN) 6-4, 6-3.

Men’s doubles
Pablo Cuevas/Luis Horna (URU/PER) bt Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA/USA x1) 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (7/1)

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