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The Icewoman cometh

Fightback: Maria Sharapova overcame a first set meltdown to beat Jelena Jankovic while Victoria Azarenka made it to her first French Open semifinal.

sports Updated: Jun 05, 2013, 23:59 IST

Maria Sharapova's father is so confident about his daughter's French Open credentials that he has declared that she "can beat Rafael Nadal on clay".

Whether or not Yuri Sharapov still held that belief when his only child was whitewashed by Jelena Jankovic in the opening set of the quarterfinal on Wednesday is anyone's guess. What is in no doubt is that he raised a champion who is always ready to fight it out to the bitter end, and Sharapova kept her wits about her following a first-set walloping.

After watching the set disappear under a hail of unforced errors flying off her racket, Sharapova kept alive her hopes of retaining the Suzanne Lenglen Cup with a 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jankovic.

Sharapova had entered the contest with a 7-1 win-loss record over her old sparring partner from the Bollettieri Academy but no one would have guessed that following the opening 28-minute nightmare.

With the Russian's backhand misfiring, forehand malfunctioning and serve stuck in first gear, Sharapova gave Jankovic free rein to do as she pleased.

The Serb blasted winners with her "money-shot" backhand "that pays my bills" and drew loud cheers for sliding into the splits as she chased down the ball.

Jankovic wrapped up the first set after yet another sloppy forehand from Sharapova, which took the number two seed's unforced errors count to 20.

Jankovic, rather than pressing home her advantage, paid a huge price for what at the time seemed like an innocuous mistake. A slight error in judgement from the 18th seed in the opening game of the second set, when she opted to hit the ball at Sharapova rather than go for a winner, threw the Serbian off course and she went on to drop her serve and the set.

That left Jankovic to resort to her usual habit of muttering away to herself as Sharapova kept her eye firmly on the ball to break in the seventh game of the third.

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus ended 12th seed Maria Kirilenko's stern resistance 7-6(3) 6-2 to claim her maiden French Open semi-final spot.

Azarenka, who has now reached the last four in all the grand-slam events, will meet defending champion Sharapova for a place in the final.

ht epaper

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