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Sharapova survives three-set epic

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PARIS, France -- World number two Maria Sharapova had to stave off two match points before beating Patty Schnyder of Switzerland 3-6 6-4 9-7 in an enthralling fourth round match at the French Open on Sunday.

Schnyder served for the match three times in a topsy-turvy deciding set and held match points at 5-4 and 7-6 but found her Russian opponent at her most stubborn.

Sharapova, who was given a hostile reception by a Roland Garros crowd who had taken the underdog to their hearts, finally held her own service to go 8-7 ahead and did not waste the opportunity when presented with a matchpoint of her own.

After Scnyder sailed a forehand wide, Sharapova covered her face with both hands and looked on the verge of tears.

As both players met at the net, there was a mix of boos and applause.

"It's pretty hard being a tennis player and Mother Teresa at the same time," Sharapova said. "You're fighting for every single point out there."

She will play fellow Russian Anna Chakvatedze, who beat Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-4 0-6 6-2, for a place in the semifinals.

14th-seed Schnyder made a promising start. She broke Sharapova in the sixth game of the first set and served for the set two games later, wrapping it up after 39 minutes with a superb backhand pass.

Both had struggled to hold serve in the second set when Sharapova managed the telling break in the 10th game, taking the set courtesy of an unforced error from her opponent.

The deciding set followed a similar pattern with plenty of breaks and a question mark over the issue until the very last point.

Serena through

Earlier, Serena Williams reached the 19th grand slam quarterfinal of her career on Sunday with a comfortable 6-2 6-3 defeat of Russian Dinara Safina.

The sole American player remaining in either singles draw surged into a 4-0 lead and was always in control.

Only briefly in the second set did 10th seed Safina, one of four Russians in the last 16, threaten to make a contest of it when she broke the Williams serve for the first time.

She had another chance at 2-2, but Williams snuffed out the danger and sped away to victory in one hour and 17 minutes.

"That was definitely better today," said the 25-year-old, playing here for the first time since 2004. "It came together in practice the other day and I knew if I could play the way I practiced, I would be able to do a good job.

"Usually I don't like to peak too soon. I like to bring up the level of my play right around the quarters, semis, mainly in the finals.

The 2002 champion now faces a mouthwatering last eight clash with top seed and winner for the last two years Justine Henin.

The Belgian beat Sybille Bammer of Austria 6-2 6-4 in a later fourth round match on Sunday.

Henin took a 4-0 lead at the start of the second set, but the 20th-seeded Bammer won four straight to even the set.

Henin immediately broke back in the ninth game, and then won the match when Bammer hit long.

Jankovic breeze

World number five Jelena Jankovic ended the host nation's presence at the French Open when she sent Marion Bartoli packing with a 6-1 6-1 thrashing.

Serbia's Jankovic, the women's tour sensation this year with three titles, needed just 64 minutes to brush aside Bartoli and set up a quarterfinal meeting with Czech teenager Nicole Vaidisova.

World number 21 Bartoli, who had stunned former finalist Elena Dementieva of Russia in the previous round, was hampered by lower back pain for which she received treatment after the first round and was never in contention.

Bartoli's exit means there will be no French player in either draw in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1999.

Sixth seed Vaiisova beat Tathiana Garbin of Italy 6-3 6-1 in impressive style.

Equally impressive was a fired-up Svetlana Kuznetsova who foiled Shahar Peer's bid to become the first Israeli woman to reach the quarterfinals of the French Open with a brisk 6-4 6-3 victory.

The Russian third seed had come off second best in their two previous meetings and was determined to break that dubious run, winning the 44-minute first set when her 20-year-old opponent smacked a backhand long.

In the second, Kuznetsova outclassed the 15th seed with her superior baseline tactics to streak ahead 5-1.

After failing to serve out the match on her first attempt, the 2004 U.S. Open champion made no mistake second time round and tapped away a backhand to seal the 81-minute victory.

She will next face rising Serb Ana Ivanovic who reached the quarterfinals with a 6-3 3-6 6-3 defeat of gritty Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues.

The 19-year-old, seeded seventh here after cracking the world's top 10 this year, needed more than two hours to quell the challenge of Garrigues who came through a three-hour clash with Daniela Hantuchova on Saturday.


The tension shows as Sharapova and Schnyder cross at a changeover.

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