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Champ Li falls, Sharapova struggles
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 06 - 2012

Nadal, Murray into last eightPARIS — Defending champion Li Na crashed out of the French Open Monday, while Maria Sharapova survived a deluge of errors on a bitterly cold day in Paris to struggle into the quarterfinals.
On the men's side the defending champion Rafael Nadal stormed into the quarterfinals as three Spaniards plus Andy Murray made it through to the last eight in the bottom half of the draw.
Li, who was Asia's first Grand Slam singles champion when she took the 2011 title, lost her crown at the fourth round stage, going down 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 to Kazakh qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova, the world 142.
World No. 7 Li was attempting to be the first French Open women's champion to successfully defend the title since Justine Henin in 2007.
But after a confident start on Suzanne Lenglen court, the 30-year-old Chinese endured a spectacular meltdown in the second set and never recovered, notching 41 errors and ending up being broken seven times by her 24-year-old opponent.
“I lost one match so don't try to put me down,” Li, who hasn't won a title since her Paris victory, snapped at a tense post-match news conference. “This is tennis. I will try to find the reason why I lost.”
Shvedova, who was a quarterfinalist in 2010, had to come through qualifying after a knee injury in 2011 saw her ranking plummet to 206.
She will now face fourth-seeded Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova who brushed aside unseeded American Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 6-1.
Sharapova struggled into the quarterfinals, defeating Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2 in an error-scarred clash which featured 21 breaks of serve.
The Russian second seed, seeking a Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam, goes on to face Estonian 23rd seed Kaia Kanepi who put out Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.
But she will be hoping for an improvement in conditions in Wednesday's quarterfinal after a stiff wind and bitter cold, which saw temperatures dip to a chilly 14 degrees, played havoc with her game, temper and movement.
Sharapova, twice a semifinalist and the favorite for the title following the exits of top seed Victoria Azarenka, Li and Serena Williams, rarely settled in the three hour 11 minute encounter.
Twice she argued with umpire Julie Kjendlie while also taking an embarrassing, bottom-first tumble on to the damp red clay midway during the ninth game of the second set.
On the other side of the draw Nadal demolished Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 in an awesome display of claycourt tennis that must have sent shivers through his rivals for the title here.
Countrymen David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro had earlier gone through comfortably.
Sixth-seeded Ferrer cruised past countryman Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-2, 6-0, and 12th seed Almagro pushed aside Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Murray then joined them with a disjointed 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 win over Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
The Scot will play Ferrer, while Nadal will go for his 50th win at Roland Garros against Almagro.
Joining them in the last eight, in matches held over from Sunday in the opposing top half of the draw, were Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.
Tsonga, seeking to provide a first French win in the men's singles since Yannick Noah in 1983, returned to action against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 4-2 ahead in the fifth set.
And despite dropping his serve in the opening game, he held steady to pull off a 6-4, 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 win that saw him into the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the first time.
Next up will be a meeting with top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who has history-making on his mind too as he bids to become the first man in 43 years to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.
“It was tough yesterday as it was dark at the end. I don't know if was great for me or not,” Tsonga said. “But I came on the court this morning with a good spirit. I had a good night's sleep and I was ready to play again.”
Del Potro was two sets to one up against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic when darkness fell on their fourth round tie late Sunday and he wasted little time on their return Monday to complete a 7-6 (8-6), 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 win.
Nadal won 17 games in succession to destroy Monaco and afterwards said he had to feel sorry for his close friend for suffering such a heavy defeat.

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