A hail of unforced errors could not melt away Maria Sharapova’s French Open dreams as the Russian kept alive hopes of retaining the title with a 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jelena Jankovic yesterday.
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 following her first-set meltdown when 20 unforced errors flew off her racket.
A slight tactical mistake from Jankovic in the opening game of the second set, when she opted to hit the ball at Sharapova rather than go for an outright winner, threw the Serbian off balance and she went on to drop her serve and the set.
That left the 18th-seeded Jankovic to resort to her usual habit of muttering away to herself as second seed Sharapova kept her eye on the ball to break in the seventh game of the third.
A forehand into the tramlines from Jankovic handed Sharapova a place in the semi-finals for the third year running and a date with third-seeded Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka who beat Russian Maria Kirilenko 7-6 (7/3), 6-2.
Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga sent Roger Federer crashing out of the French Open quarter-finals on Tuesday to take a step closer to ending France’s 30-year wait for a men’s champion at Roland Garros.
Sixth-seed Tsonga swept to a 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 triumph to reach his first semi-final in Paris and first by a home player since Gael Monfils in 2008.
The 28-year-old will tackle Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer for a place in Sunday’s final.
Victory also helped wipe out the misery of his quarter-final in Paris last year where he had four match points over Novak Djokovic and lost in five sets.
“It’s extraordinary to be here and to have won,” said Tsonga, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of Yannick Noah, France’s last men’s champion in Paris in 1983.
“I never dreamed of this moment. Today was my moment against a champion who has won everything. I didn’t think I would get this far without losing a set, but Ferrer has not lost a set as well, he’s in great form,” Tsonga said.
Federer, in his 36th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final, was bidding to win a record 58th career match at Roland Garros and reach his 34th semi-final at a major.
The 17-time Grand Slam title winner also had the advantage of a 9-3 career lead over the French star, but Tsonga had been the man to beat Federer from two sets to love down in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2011.
Tsonga had reached the quarter-finals without dropping a set, while 31-year-old Federer had struggled in his fourth round win over Gilles Simon where he had to come back from two sets to one down.
David Ferrer reached the semi-finals for the second successive year with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 win over compatriot Tommy Robredo.
Ferrer won in just 1 hour, 35 minutes to lift his series to seven wins against two losses to his 32nd-ranked rival as the 31-year-old continued a fine run of form which has seen him reach the last four without dropping a set.
Robredo, also 31, had by contrast spent five hours more on court — including three consecutive five-setters — as he missed out on a first appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final.
Robredo, playing in his fifth Roland Garros quarter-final, reached the last eight by becoming the first man since Henri Cochet at Wimbledon in 1927 to win three successive rounds from two sets to love down.