Sharapova avoids shutout on way out

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

PARIS -- The final score of Maria Sharapova's stunning loss in the French Open quarterfinals Tuesday did not look quite as embarrassing as it nearly did: Her opponent led 6-0, 5-0.

That Sharapova saved a match point in the 12th game and wound up delaying her defeat for 15 minutes was of no consolation, of course. All that mattered was that her bid to complete a career Grand Slam this year ended when she was beaten 6-0, 6-2 by 20th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova.

"I don't really care about numbers. It's either a 'W' or an 'L,"' Sharapova said, "and I prefer 'W."'

All of that time on court at the French Open, and all of that time away before it, finally caught up to her, resulting in her most lopsided loss at a major tournament.

"You can only ask your body to do so much," said Sharapova, who had right shoulder surgery in October and had played four three-set matches at Roland Garros in her first major tournament in nearly a year.

Her absence from the tour dropped her ranking outside the top 100. Still, as a former No. 1 and a three-time major champion, Sharapova was expected to beat Cibulkova, a 20-year-old Slovak who was making her Grand Slam quarterfinal debut.

Now the 5-foot-3 Cibulkova faces the current No. 1, Dinara Safina, who overcame a shaky start to defeat No. 9 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

In men's action, 23rd-seeded Robin Soderling, who stunned four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, stretched his career-best winning streak to eight matches by easily handling two-time French Open semifinalist Nikolay Davydenko 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. Never before a Grand Slam semifinalist -- or quarterfinalist or even fourth-round participant -- Soderling will be a French Open finalist if he can beat No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile.

Gonzalez, the 2007 Australian Open runner-up, reached his first semifinal at Roland Garros with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 victory over No. 3 Andy Murray.

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