By Ros Satar
(June 5, 2013) PARIS – Defending champion Maria Sharapova edged out Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic in a nervy three-setter to book her slot in the women’s semifinals – 0-6 6-4, 6-3.
Certainly the start of the match slipped away from Sharapova rapidly as Jankovic stormed ahead break after break, closing out a 6-0 score line in just under half an hour.
Sharapova, however, got her eye back in the game, breaking Jankovic right at the start of the second set and again for that all important double-break cushion.
There looked like there might be a brief wobble, at Sharapova’s first attempt to serve the set out, getting broken.
The Russian made no mistake the second time, leaving Jankovic to berate herself, her box and probably anyone else in earshot.
Perhaps even more ironic, this pair had completed two sets before Azarenka/Kirilenko had managed to finish their first set.
The third set was a tighter affair, with the decisive first break going Sharapova’s way to lead 4-3, delivering the final blow by breaking to take the third set 6-3.
After the match, Jankovic summed the match up, saying: “Overall was a big fight. “It was great tennis out there. We battled, you know, [it] was few points here and there that made a difference.”
Jankovic had been playing in three disciplines at the French Open, in a bit to use the doubles experience to help improve her singles play, but acknowledged it had been a lot of tennis in the last two weeks.
In an earlier news conference, Jankovic had joked that maybe the last time the pair had faced each other on clay, it would have been at the Bollettieri academy, when they were about 12.
But she praised Sharapova today, saying: “Credit to her.
“At the end she was a better player. I was a bit unlucky, but I fought hard until the end.”
“I played a lot, but overall I had an amazing tournament.”
Sharapova admitted her own start had been less than spectacular.
She said: “I think clay really suits her game.
“She plays extremely well on it because she loves to defend. She can do that all day long.”
It was important for her to put that first set behind her, and regroup for the decider.
“In the third set it was still extremely tough. You know, we held serve for a while, and it was really important to get that break.”
Over on Lenglen, the passage of play could not have been more different.
While Sharapova and Jankovic were getting into their decider, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko were duking it out in a first set that lasted 76 minutes.
Kirilenko left the court for a medical timeout, leaving Azarenka to practice serves.
Then after a 10 minute hold, a couple of breaks at the tail end of the set pushed the pair into a tie-break.
Azarenka was able to build up a lead to take the first set 76(3).
After that, it seemed to be plain sailing for the Belarusian, breaking Kirilenko early in the second, and then again in the last game to finish their match while the other Russian was still battling in the decider.
Having described herself in the past as not quite “married” to the clay yet, she elaborated that the relationship might have moved on.
“I still don’t have any ring on my finger. (Smiling.)
“But I feel like, you know, we made a step forward. We are moving in together. (Laughter.)”
Azarenka leads the head-to-head against Sharapova 7-5, but Sharapova has beaten her the two times they have played on clay.