Sharapova out but Williams edges through

 
Ross McLean
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DEFENDING champion Maria Sharapova crashed out of the French Open yesterday after suffering a straight-sets defeat to Czech Lucie Safarova in the fourth round.

Russia’s Sharapova had reached three consecutive Roland Garros finals and recorded two victories, but was eclipsed by 13th seed Safarova, who produced the biggest shock of this year’s tournament with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 win.

Defeat represented second seed Sharapova’s earliest exit at the French Open since 2010, while Safarova, who has never been past the last 16 in Paris before, will play Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in the last eight.

“I felt I had small openings but I wasn’t able to play a few good points and Lucie was a much more aggressive player,” conceded Sharapova.

“My opponent was at a much higher level, more consistent than I was, that resulted in a bad day at the office.”

Top seed Serena Williams, meanwhile, recovered from a traumatic opening set to beat fellow American Sloane Stephens 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, exacting revenge for her sister Venus’s defeat to the same opponent in round one.

Williams made 15 unforced errors and was broken three times by world No40 Stephens in the first set, but the 19-time grand slam champion fought back to claim an erratic victory.

“I’m living on the edge. It’s okay to go two tough sets but to go three sets back-to-back is on the verge of unprofessionalism for me,” said Williams, who now faces 17th seed Sara Errani of Italy for a place the last four of a competition she won in 2002 and 2013.