It looked more like a joke when the foot-taller Maria Sharapova came to the net to shake hands with the 5-foot-3 Dominika Cibulkova, but it was no laughing matter for the lanky former No. 1 Russian, who was handed a 6-0, 6-2 slice of humble pie by the diminutive Slovak on Tuesday at Roland Garros.
Sharapova was noticeably rusty in only her second tournament of the year after shoulder surgery, yet reached the French Open quarterfinals with some gutsy displays.
“Today I was playing really solid. Not a lot of errors. I knew if I played well I’d have a chance,” Cibulkova said. “When I was up 6-0, 5-0 and 40-30, I realized I could beat Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-0 and go to the semifinals in a Grand Slam. I got shocked a little bit.”
It was the first appearance in a Slam quarterfinal for the Slovak. For Sharapova it was an unexpected run after injury on her worst surface, where her movement remains a liability.
“She played really solid and made me hit a lot of balls, and I came up short today,” Sharapova said. “I was very appreciative of the way the crowd was rooting for me, asking for me to fight and keep working to find a way to turn things around.”
World No. 1 Dinara Safina was forced to fight back on Tuesday in a battle against No. 9 seed Victoria Azarenka, a winner of three WTA Tour titles this year, winning 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
“She was playing well, and I was playing exactly into her zone. Then I started to fight, point by point,” Safina said. “If I didn’t fight in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam as No. 1 in the world, I wouldn’t deserve that spot. I didn’t play my game today but I fought until the end.”
Wednesday quarterfinal play at Roland Garros will feature No. 2 seed Serena Williams against No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova, and No. 30 Samantha Stosur against unseeded Sorana Cirstea.
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