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Sharapova displays iron will to stage fightback
June 04, 2007 10:39 IST
Last Updated: June 04, 2007 10:50 IST
A competitive streak as hard as a diamond gave Maria Sharapova [Images] the strength to stage a great escape at the French Open on Sunday.
The Russian second seed looked to be dead and buried when she faced two match points -- 20 minutes apart -- but each time her survival instincts kicked in.
After two hours 37 minutes of high drama she squeezed past Switzerland's Patty Schnyder 3-6, 6-4, 9-7 and greeted her triumph by blowing a kiss skywards.
"Today is what I play for. I'm a huge competitor. Don't count on me giving up. If I lose the match, I want to be able to lose it on my terms," said Sharapova.
Justine Henin and Serena Williams [Images] lined up a grudge re-match when they hurtled into the last eight.
Four years after Williams was booed off court following an acrimonious semi-final, the duo will face each other across the net at Roland Garros for the first time since that day.
Australian Open champion Williams darted past Dinara Safina 6-2, 6-3, while Henin ousted Austrian Sybille Bammer 6-2, 6-4.
Roger Federer's [Images] charge towards an elusive French Open title gathered momentum as he silenced roaring Russian Mikhail Youzhny 7-6, 6-4, 6-4. Next up for the top seed will be Tommy Robredo.
The Swiss maestro, who is bidding to become only the third man to win all four majors in a row, has now won a record-equalling 35 successive sets at Grand Slams dating back to his triumph at the 2006 US Open.
"If I can win in three sets so much the better but I'm not looking for these types of records," was Federer's verdict on matching John McEnroe's 1984 feat.
"I got enough shirts for five-set matches in the bag. I only used one today."
For once Federer's majestic performance was not the talking point amongst Parisians.
It was the forthcoming duel between Henin and Williams that had tongues wagging.
Williams was left an emotional wreck after her reign as champion was ended in 2003 by Henin and she went on to accuse the Belgian of "lying and fabricating" following a controversial point in the match.
Despite the passage of time, some things can not be forgotten.
"I wasn't at fault in any way and I guess she was doing everything to win. Who knows? I don't know," said Williams.
Playing with a painful shoulder, Sharapova had been hoping for a quick workout against an opponent she had beaten in each of their last three meetings.
But Schnyder had other ideas and served for the match three times in the decider but each time was left floundering. A match point at 5-4 flashed by, as did another one at 7-6.
Sharapova eventually snapped a run of six successive breaks and after incurring a violation for time wasting, for choosing to change her racket when Schnyder was 40-15 up in the final game, she won the next four points to seal the Swiss's fate.
Booed off court, Sharapova said: "It's pretty hard being a tennis player and Mother Theresa at the same time. It's just the way it is."
The Russian will hope an easier outing will be on the cards when she comes up against compatriot Anna Chakvetadze [Images].
While Williams was the only US survivor out of the 10 who had entered the women's draw, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic highlighted the changing boundaries in the world tennis map.
They were the only Serbs to enter the field and remain on course for a final date.
Before she can look that far ahead, Ivanovic will have to overcome 2006 runner-up Svetlana Kuznetsova.
The Russian foiled Shahar Peer's bid to become the first Israeli woman to reach the Paris quarter-finals with a brisk 6-4, 6-3 victory.
Fourth seed Jankovic ended French interest with a brutal 6-1, 6-1 thrashing of Marion Bartoli and will take on Nicole Vaidisova.
The French Open 2007 coverage