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Sharapova exits to inspired Pierce

NEW YORK, USA -- Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova crashed out of the U.S. Open to French veteran Mary Pierce who won their third round match on Saturday 4-6 6-2 6-3.

Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and top seed Justine Henin-Hardenne were among other third-round winners.

Russia seventh seed Sharapova looked in control after taking the opening set, but Pierce, the Australian Open champion in 1995, broke twice to level at a set apiece.

Sharapova took an early lead in the decider but Pierce proved the stronger and closed out victory in two hours four minutes.

The 17-year-old starlet was hoping to become the third woman in four years to win Wimbledon and the Open back-to-back. Serena Williams did it in 2002 and Venus in 2001.

Sharapova served poorly against Pierce making 14 double faults and 47 unforced errors that ultimately cost her the chance of victory.

She may have humbled Serena Williams at Wimbledon but her early exit from the New Haven tournament a week ago showed she is vulnerable to players who can change the pace and keep her off balance.

"The major problem was that I tried to do too much at certain times," Sharapova said. "I went too much on my serve at the wrong time.

"She's an experienced player. I have to move on and there are so many things I have to work on."

Pierce earned a last 16 clash with either Russian ninth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova or American Amy Frazier.

Battling instincts

Top seed and champion Justine Henin-Hardenne had to rely on her battling instincts to overcome Lisa Raymond 6-4 6-3 in their third round match.

The Belgian, still struggling from the after-effects of a debilitating virus which kept her off the tour for 12 weeks, was handed a stiff test by her American opponent before she secured the win.

Having struggled in her opening matches, Henin-Hardenne began well, breaking Raymond to take a 4-1 lead.

The gutsy Raymond hit back to level at 4-4, though, and Henin-Hardenne needed all her experience to break in the ninth game and serve out for the set.

That dented Raymond's resolve and the world number one comfortably won the second to clinch the 85-minute victory.

She will meet 14th seed Nadia Petrova of Russia in the fourth round. Petrova defeated Italy's Silvia Farina Elia 4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3).

In other women's third-round results, Shinobu Asagoe of Japan beat 13th seed Paola Suarez of Argentina, 6-4, 6-4, and Eleni Daniilidou of Greece beat Anna Chakvetadze of Russia, 6-4, 6-2.

Fifth seed Lindsay Davenport defeated Elena Bovina 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 and ninth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova was too strong for Amy Frazier, winning 7-6 (7-3), 7-5.

Venus Williams, seeded No. 11 at the Open this year, beat 20th seed Chanda Rubin 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.

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