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Defending champ Sharapova upset by Radwanska

9/2/2007 - Tennis

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."

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.

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.