Safina ousts No. 1 Sharapova, advances to quarterfinals
PARIS -- Maria Sharapova did not go quietly.
No, her departure from the French Open was filled with sound and fury: her stroke-accompanying shrieks, her self-loathing shouts between points and the spectators' hearty boos and high-pitched whistles that ushered the No. 1-seeded woman to the exit.
One point from reaching the quarterfinals at the only Grand Slam tournament she's never won, Sharapova allowed every bit of a significant lead slip away Monday and collapsed to a 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-2 defeat against No. 13 Dinara Safina.
"Oh, I was angry," Sharapova said. "I was angry for making unforced errors, for not taking some of those balls and just ripping them."
Sharapova figured it wouldn't take long to get over Monday's setback and start focusing on the All England Club, where she won her first Grand Slam title in 2004 at age 17.
With last month's retirement of top-ranked Justine Henin, and last week's losses by Venus and Serena Williams, Sharapova appeared to have a clearer-than-usual path to success at the clay-court major. She was one of only two women with a Slam title to her credit among the final 16 players, but will have to wait for another year in Paris.
"I came very close," Sharapova said.
She led 5-2 in the second set, and went up 40-30 while serving for the match at 5-3. But Safina erased that chance with a backhand winner, and eventually broke when Sharapova missed a forehand. In the ensuing tiebreaker, Sharapova took a 5-2 lead, but Safina claimed five straight points.
Dinara's Day On Clay ... Again
Monday's meeting between Dinara Safina, right, and Maria Sharapova was their second head-to-head at the French Open. The outcome was quite similar to the first.
Until now, Safina was best known for being the kid sister of Marat Safin, who won the 2000 U.S. Open and 2005 Australian Open. She shares his broad shoulders and short temper, but thus far had not displayed quite as much talent or taste for the big stage, never advancing beyond the quarterfinals at a major.
Even after beating Sharapova, she didn't exactly display bravado. Asked whether she could win the title, Safina puffed her cheeks, exhaled loudly, and replied, "I mean, it's not easy."
So who could have been surprised that she wasted two set points at 6-4 in the first tiebreaker? After blowing the second set point, she spiked her racket precisely the way Marat does, drawing a warning from the chair umpire.
"I'm not the girl to keep all the emotions I have inside," Safina said. "I guess I have to pay lots of fines because that's the way I am."
Two other women's matches were suspended because of darkness and completed Tuesday morning. No. 4 Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion, defeated No. 16 Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-3. She will next play Kaia Kanepi, who beat Petra Kvitova 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
Garber: Safina Finds Zone
Dinara Safina began playing with a super-charged focus, her eyes, seen on instant replay, even had a crazed look about them. Then the match turned on Maria Sharapova, writes Greg Garber. Story
At 15-love, Safina's forehand landed near a line, and Sharapova missed a backhand. Sharapova asked the chair umpire to check the mark from Safina's shot, drawing scattered noise from the crowd, and the call stood.
On the next point, Sharapova botched a sitter and put a forehand into the net -- drawing cheers, generally considered a breach of etiquette among tennis spectators. Another short ball came at 15-30, and perhaps wary of another miscue, Sharapova sent it back cautiously, allowing Safina to pound a forehand. That prompted a scream from Sharapova.
As play proceeded, her yells became louder and louder as she berated herself, at least once with colorful language.
"You sometimes get a little too negative on yourself," Sharapova said.
After erasing three break points in that game, Sharapova netted two forehands in a row, ceding the break. Now it was Safina's turn to let it out: She raised a fist and bellowed. A match in which she was playing from so far behind for so long was now in her control, and she did not let go, collecting 10 of the final 12 points -- including Sharapova's seventh double-fault of the match, 43rd of the tournament.
French Open scores
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"I can't please everyone. That's not in my 'J.D.' -- not in my job description," she said.
"I mean, they paid the ticket to watch me," she added, "so they must appreciate me on some level, right?"
Sharapova moved up from No. 2 to No. 1 when Henin quit, but the stay might be brief. Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Kuznetsova all could lead the rankings by the end of the week. Sharapova was asked about the possibility of losing her spot at the top.
Her reply? "Boohoo."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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2008 FRENCH OPEN
French Open Video
May 25-June 8
Women: Justine Henin
Men: Rafael Nadal
Day 15 • Men
• Ford: Nadal simply too good against Federer
• Garber: Federer resolute in confidence, ability
• Harwitt: Rafael Nadal the best clay-courter ever?
• Photo gallery: Best of Week 2 from Paris
• Ubha: French Open men's final instant analysis
Day 14 • Women
• South Americans take men's doubles
• Garber: Maturation, confidence help Ivanovic
• Ford: Zen-like calm elevating Ivanovic
• Harwitt: Can Ivanovic hang on to No. 1 ranking?
• Ubha: French Open women's final instant analysis
Day 13 • Men
• Bob Bryan, Azarenka win French mixed doubles
• Garber: Federer in need of a monumental effort
• Ford: Nadal handles Djokovic with relative ease
• Harwitt: Borg spends birthday extolling Nadal
• Who will win the French Open women's final?
Day 12 • Women
• Garber: Ivanovic, Safina set to duke it out
• Ivanovic to take over No. 1 ranking
• Ford: Djokovic ready to reshuffle world order
• Latest Dirt: Men's semifinal preview
• The big three: Federer looking past Monfils?
• Harwitt: Safina's mom has reason to extol virtue
• Men | Women
• Latest Dirt: Women's semifinal preview
• The big three: Federer semifinal streak lives on
• Harwitt: Rolling out the red carpet
• Tennis.com: Federer's time right now
Day 10 • Men | Women
• Garber: Serbs thriving because of each other
• Chip and Charge: Assessing the French
• The big three: Nadal-Djokovic ready to battle
• Sharapova to fall from top spot after French Open
• Men | Women
• Garber: Sharapova sent packing by Safina
• Latest Dirt: Americans officially done
• Garber: Ranking the sweet 16 players
• The big three: Federer and Gonzo to clash
Day 8 • Men | Women
• Garber: Ferrer worthy of being in top five
• Latest Dirt: Evaluating the top-five players
• The big three: Humdrum day for Nadal, Djokovic
• ITF to probe player's claim she was told to lose
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See all stories from Week 1