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Sharapova 'lucky' to escape defeat

Sharapova had been outplayed from the start by Groenefeld

MOSCOW, Russia -- Top seed Maria Sharapova was lucky to reach the Kremlin Cup quarterfinals after her second round opponent Anna-Lena Groenefeld retired with an ankle injury while leading 6-1 4-2.

The unseeded German was 4-1 ahead in the second set when she slipped and twisted her left ankle.

After a time-out during which the ankle was taped, Groenefeld, on the brink of tears, played three more points before finally quitting.

"I knew I didn't win this match fairly. I don't like such victories," said Sharapova.

"But strange things do happen in tennis and today's match was one of them."

Groenefeld had dominated Sharapova from the start.

The Florida-based Russian, who was making her Kremlin Cup debut, was broken three times in the opening set, losing her serve to love in the third and seventh games. "I would be lying if I said that I was not nervous before the match," the 18-year-old said.

Sharapova again surrendered her serve in the fourth game of the second set when she hit a lame forehand into the net on break point to fall 1-3 behind.

Groenefeld won the next game and held two break points in the sixth before stumbling on the baseline as she tried to reach Sharapova's forehand.

"I knew she was a strong player and played well in Beijing but I must admit I just wasn't myself on the court today," said Sharapova, who beat Groenefeld 6-2 6-2 in their only previous encounter at the German Open this year.

"It's always tough to come back after injury and I haven't played for two weeks, so obviously I need some time to find my rhythm. Hopefully, I'll play better next time."

Sharapova has not played since pulling out of her semifinal with a chest injury at the China Open, where Groenefeld reach the final before losing to Maria Kirilenko.

Sharapova began tentatively and had to save a break point in the opening game before going ahead 1-0.

But it was all Groenefeld after that as she pinned the 2004 Wimbledon champion to the baseline.

"Of course, I'm very disappointed especially because I was just a couple of points away from winning the match and also to end the season this way," said the 20-year-old German.

"I'm leaving for Germany tomorrow to get an MRI and see how bad the injury is. I want to find out what I have to do to get well and get ready for next season."

Third seed Mary Pierce of France became the first player to reach the last eight, outlasting experienced Italian Flavia Pennetta 4-6 6-2 6-3 in nearly two hours.

The French and U.S. Open finalist overcame a slow start and a break of serve early in the final set to take control of the match, winning the last five games to seal victory.

"It was my first match here and it took me some time to adjust to the surface and the balls," said Pierce, who received a bye into the second round.

Anastasia Myskina, who is gunning for a Kremlin Cup hat-trick this year after winning back-to-back titles here, also had to dig into her reserves to beat former three-times winner Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria 2-6 6-4 6-2.

The men's tournament lost its top two seeds in the first round.

Defending champion and top seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia was knocked out by 95th-ranked Italian Daniele Bracciali 3-6 6-4 6-4 and second-seeded Slovak Dominik Hrbaty went down to unseeded Frenchman Cyril Saulnier 4-6 6-3 6-3.

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