French Open champion Maria Sharapova admitted she had dug deep to reach the quarter-finals of Stuttgart’s WTA tournament after her three-hour marathon victory over claycourt specialist Lucie Safarova on Thursday.
Sharapova, who won last year’s Stuttgart title en route to her Roland Garros victory, needed three hours, nine minutes to squeeze past her Czech opponent for a 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 second-round victory.
With a 5-2 lead in the third set and serving for the match, Sharapova squandered three match points as Safarova broke her, before the Russian returned the compliment to claim the contest.
“I’ve had a few three-hour games in my career, so I knew I just had to keep fighting until the end,” said the statuesque Russian, who was due to face former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in yesterday’s quarter-finals.
“That’s when it’s the time to get the game-plan going and calm down a little bit,” she said. “Clay is one of her favorite surfaces and I knew this was going to be a tough game, so I am glad to get through,” Sharapova said.
“The first match of the claycourt season is always tough, it’s nothing like practising,” she said.
Sharapova’s last eight opponent Ivanovic beat Russia’s Nadia Petrova 6-4, 6-3 in her second round game, having dropped to 17th in the world rankings. Earlier second-seed China’s Li Na has admitted she has one eye on a brand new sports car, the winner’s prize here, as she prepares to face Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals.
Li, who reached January’s Australian Open final, breezed through Thursday’s second-round match in 74 minutes to see off Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-1, 6-2 in straight sets in her first match of the claycourt season.
Kvitova made the last eight after beating Germany’s Julia Goerges 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in her second round match.
“I have a lot of room in my garage for a new car and it’s a pretty nice car,” joked Li, with a brand new Porsche parked at the side of the court, ready for the winner of tomorrow’s final to drive away.
“It’s always tough when you change surface, so I’m excited to win my first match on clay for the season,” she said. “Mirjana plays flat, so I had to prepare for that.”
“I thought it would be a tough match because she has a lot of experience,” Li said. “I was happy I could play more aggressive and had the right game plan to win.”
Third-seed Angelique Kerber, ranked sixth in the world, also had no problems as she blasted past Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 6-4 to set up a quarter-final clash with Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova.
Former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia crashed out in the second round when she was beaten in straight sets 7-6 (7/3), 7-5 by Germany’s Sabine Lisicki.
GRAND PRIX SAR
AP, MARRAKECH, Morocco
Defending champion Kiki Bertens beat Flavia Pennetta of Italy 7-6 (7/0), 4-6, 6-4 in an error-strewn match to reach the Grand Prix SAR quarter-finals on Thursday.
Bertens, who is seeded fifth, recovered from 4-1 down in the first set to win a match which saw 14 breaks of serve.
The Dutch player was broken while serving for the match, but broke straight back to secure a place in the last eight against Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain.
Dominguez Lino rallied to beat ninth-seeded Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 in another match to feature seven breaks of serve for each player.
Mandy Minella of Luxembourg also fought back from a set down to beat fourth-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Kanepi had seven aces, but double-faulted nine times, and Minella broke her three times.
Seventh-seeded Kristina Mladenovic of France advanced to the last eight by beating Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-3 and Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa joined her after thrashing Russia’s Olga Puchkova 6-0, 6-3.
Sixth-seeded Francesca Schiavone of Italy also cruised into the quarter-finals, beating two-time runner up Simona Halep of Romania 6-3, 6-2.