Defending champ Sharapova upset by Radwanska

Updated: September 2, 2007, 12:46 PM ET news services

NEW YORK -- Bothered by swirling gusts and a teen's surprising moxie, Maria Sharapova was completely lost.

Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland pulled off the stunning upset, beating the defending U.S. Open champion 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 in a third-round match that took a startling turn Saturday.

Sharapova seemed to take control by winning eight games in a row, giving her a 2-0 lead in the final set. Then, she fell apart and never won again.

"A lot of girls in her position on a big stage in a big stadium against a top player sometimes get a little nervous," Sharapova said. "She held on there."

"You'd think I would have the momentum," Sharapova said, "but I just didn't really feel that way inside of me for some reason."

Sharapova became the first No. 2-seeded woman to lose before the round of 16 at the Open since Andrea Jaeger in 1981. Her father could barely stand to watch, moving from his front-row perch to a seat farther back during the final points.

"I could sit here and blame the wind and blame my opponent. But there are no excuses," Sharapova said. "I'm not going to throw myself a pity party here."

Maria Sharapova
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonMaria Sharapova became the first No. 2-seeded woman to lose before the round of 16 at the Open since Andrea Jaeger in '81.

The 30th-ranked Radwanska had a lot to do with Sharapova's undoing. At 18, the former junior champ at Wimbledon and the French Open played with poise and smarts, creeping closer and closer to the service box on second serves, hoping to unnerve the two-time Grand Slam winner.

"She was the favorite and I think she was more nervous," Radwanska said.

At times, Radwanska walked nearly halfway from the baseline to the net as Sharapova got ready, then backed off at the last second.

"I knew that she hates [it] if somebody is moving on the serve," Radwanska said, her braces gleaming in the sunlight. "She made many mistakes."

A shrewd move by Radwanska. Maybe make that a shrew move -- away from the court, she likes to play with her pet rats.

"It will be interesting to see if she does it again the next time I play her," Sharapova said.

Radwanska wasn't the only 18-year-old from Eastern Europe who pulled off a big win Saturday: Victoria Azarenka of Bulgaria beat 1997 champion Martina Hingis 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, and Agnes Szavay of Hungary eliminated No. 7 Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-3. Plus, 16-year-old Tamira Paszek of Austria knocked off No. 11 Patty Schnyder 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1). All of which means 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova has to like her chances in the bottom half of the draw.

"You can see the new generation coming up," Hingis said. "They're very dangerous. I knew it's not going to be easy. My mom texted me. She said, 'Watch out.'"

Sharapova's serve was her undoing, especially after early faults. She won only 23 percent of her second-serve points and wrecked herself with 12 double-faults.

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The 6-foot-2 Sharapova's high toss is particularly susceptible to gusts, the same way popups often blow crazily across the street at Shea Stadium. She frequently stood still, waiting for the wind to subside.

Playing in the glare of a morning match, Sharapova put on a sun visor early. Dressed in white instead of her power-red night outfit, Sharapova finished with 49 unforced errors -- she had only 25 in losing a total of two games in her first two matches.

Sharapova seemed in charge after she bounced back in the second set and started fast in the next one.

"She destroyed me," Radwanska said.

"You'd think I would have the momentum," Sharapova said.

It certainly was a different result from their only other meeting -- in a May matchup in Istanbul, Sharapova ran away with a 6-love victory in the third set.

Radwanska's lone singles title came in Stockholm this year, and she said her favorite surfaces are grass and clay, rather than the hard courts at Flushing Meadows. Radwanska will meet No. 18 Shahar Peer of Israel, who won 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5) over No. 13 Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic.

Now into the fourth round at the U.S. Open, she planned to grab her sister -- also a tennis pro -- and celebrate like a giddy teen. They're going shopping at Louis Vuitton.

Later, she'll think about tennis.

"I'm not favored here," she said. "I have no idea who is next."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.