Times Colonist

Safina sends Sharapova packing

- STEPHANIE MYLES

PARIS — The word “choke” will no doubt be used in the same sentence with “Maria Sharapova” quite a bit today, after the world No. 1 was upset at the French Open yesterday.

But using that word in this particular situation does a tremendous disservice to Dinara Safina.

Safina, the No. 13 seed and the younger sister of former No. 1 men’s player Marat Safin, was down and just about out before coming all the way back to beat Sharapova in battle of Russian players 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-2 in two hours, 52 minutes.

The only Canadian in action, Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil, lost his second-round junior singles match to Andrew Thomas of Australia, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Sharapova was not only up a set and ahead 5-2 in the second set of this fourth-round match, she also led 5-2 in the second-set tiebreaker with two serves to come.

The temporary world No. 1 has had trouble closing out matches before in her career. It’s a rare chink in her otherwise peerless competitiv­e armour.

Yesterday, she was up against a player who not only is on form, but who somehow found some extra desire and energy at the end of a long, rain-interrupte­d match to run down every single ball — balls the tall, trudging six-footer usually can’t reach.

Safina just kept making Sharapova play, putting aside all the negativity she let loose in the first set, including a mangled racket at 6-6 in the tiebreak.

It’s not often you say this about Sharapova: this time, her opponent simply wanted it more. When Sharapova was broken to go down 4-2 in the third set, she used just about every word in the book to urge herself on.

“Just trying to pump myself up. . . . I was trying to get angry at something that can somehow get that anger out of me and just, you know, let loose. Because I just started playing tentativel­y,” Sharapova said.

Sharapova had a match point when she served at 5-3 in the second set.

“I hit a winner on her match point. And then suddenly it changed,” Safina said. “I was really starting to hit the ball much harder. Before I was just running and playing it back, and she was doing everything on the court.”

The other women’s fourthroun­d match completed yesterday took a little longer than anticipate­d. But No. 7 seed Elena Dementieva prevailed 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 over No. 11 seed Vera Zvonareva in another allRussia matchup.

Dementieva now meets Safina, who went out after her singles win and played another three sets of doubles with partner Agnes Szavay, in a losing cause.

On the men’s side, there finally was a French flair to the proceeding­s as the last of the five local heroes to make the round of 16, Gael Monfils, beat No. 28 seed Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and proceeded to channel the dancing skills of U.S. rapper Soulja Boy on Centre Court.

No. 1 seed Roger Federer had earlier defeated another Frenchman, Julien Benneteau, despite being broken each time he served for a set. The Swiss star engineered the 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 win by breaking Benneteau to win each set and now gets the dangerous Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, who eliminated American Robby Ginepri 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-1.

Monfils is a 21-year-old who once received hype similar to what countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is receiving this year.

 ??  ?? Russia’s Maria Sharapova can’t believe she’s out of the French Open after losing to compatriot Dinara Safina in Paris yesterday.
Russia’s Maria Sharapova can’t believe she’s out of the French Open after losing to compatriot Dinara Safina in Paris yesterday.

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