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Sharapova tops second top-10 player in month

5/28/2004

PARIS -- Basking in her latest victory Friday, Maria
Sharapova grabbed a pinch of red clay at Roland Garros and gave it
a rub. She'll be back for more.

A Siberia native who lives in Florida, the 17-year-old Sharapova
advanced to the fourth round of the French Open by beating fellow
Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Precocious and photogenic, Sharapova has drawn comparisons to a
young Anna Kournikova. Sharapova reached the fourth round at
Wimbledon last year and is seeded 18th, and the victory over
Zvonareva was her second this month against a top-10 player.

"I don't think anything can stop me unless I lose," Sharapova
said with a laugh. "So far I'm very confident with the way I've
been playing."

Home favorite Amelie Mauresmo dispatched Spain's Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-3, 6-2 to maintain her bid for a first grand
slam title.

The third seed gave a confident display in front of a packed
Center Court crowd, wrapping up victory in 67 minutes.

The 24-year-old Frenchwoman faces Magdalena Maleeva of
Bulgaria, the 21st seed, in the fourth round.

No. 5-seeded Lindsay Davenport beat fellow American Marissa
Irvin 6-1, 6-4. Russian Nadia Petrova, a semifinalist last year,
was upset by Marlene Weingartner 6-3, 6-2.

No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo of France beat Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-3,
6-2. Mauresmo and Davenport could meet in the quarterfinals.

Zheng Jie became the first Chinese woman to reach the fourth
round in a Grand Slam event by beating Tathiana Garbin 5-7, 7-6
(1), 6-2. Garbin upset defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne in
the second round.

Petrova, a semifinalist last year, had five double faults and
lost her serve seven times. Her defeat guarantees a first-time
Grand Slam semifinalist in that quarter of the draw.

"I'm very disappointed," Petrova said. "This French Open is
screwed up. It's a very open draw this year. Anyone can be in the
final."

Perhaps it will be Sharapova. Born in Nyagan, Russia, she moved
to the Black Sea resort of Sochi at age 2, began playing tennis at
4, started training at Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Florida
at 9 and had an agent by 11. She signed last year with IMG's
modeling division, which represents Tyra Banks, and speaks fluent
English.

Plus she can play, smacking aggressive shots with a shriek that
has sometimes drawn complaints from opponents. Sharapova raced to a
4-0 lead against the No. 10-seeded Zvonareva, then wavered in the
second set but closed out the victory with a solid tiebreaker.

Sharapova hit a service winner on set point, then emitted one
final shriek and hopped with glee.

"The joy comes from knowing that you've played a solid game and
knowing that you're at Roland Garros," Sharapova said. "I
definitely want to savor those moments."

Weingartner, 24, matched her best Grand Slam performance by
reaching the fourth round. She lost to Petrova 6-0, 6-0 in their
only previous meeting, which was last year.

"She's the type of player who can play unbelievable, and the
next day she can play the worst," Petrova said.

Another Russian, No. 9 Elena Dementieva, advanced when No. 19
Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi retired in the third set because of
cramps. Dementieva trailed 0-6, 7-6 (2), 0-1.

No. 14 Paola Suarez beat Tatiana Perebiynis 6-3, 6-3. No. 21
Magdalena Maleeva eliminated American Meghann Shaughnessy 6-3, 7-6
(3).

Russia had seven women reach the round of 32 -- more than any
other country, and a reflection of the nation's recent progress in
the sport.

Six Americans remained. That included Serena and Venus Williams, and Jennifer Capriati, thanks to a trio of come-from-behind
wins Thursday.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.