• French Open, Day Seven

Sharapova and Azarenka advance in Paris

ESPN staff
June 1, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »

Maria Sharapova powered into the fourth round of the French Open with a win over Jie Zheng, while progress was far harder for Victoria Azarenka who needed three sets to see off Alize Cornet.

Sharapova completed her career Grand Slam when taking the French Open 12 months ago and she is not going to give up her title without a fight.

The Russian's game has been built on brute force but she showed she has the tools needed to flourish on clay, notably a sliced backhand. It is a shot not associated with Sharapova but such is her confidence at present, she played the shot to good effect on a couple of occasions.

But power is Plan A for Sharapova and she blew Jie off the court in the first set.

Jie broke at the start of the second and raced into a 4-1 lead. Sharapova, though, upped her level when staring at a third set and ran through three games on the spin to get back in the set.

Inconsistency plagued Sharapova in the second set and Jie broke again to lead 5-4. The Chinese player's first serve let her down, enabling Sharapova to break back and it set the No. 2 seed on her way to a 6-1 7-5 win.

United States youngster Sloane Stephens booked a clash with Sharapova in the fourth round with a 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 win over Marina Erakovic.

Azarenka had an awful day on serve, she was broken six times and sent down 10 double faults. For swathes of the match it looked as if she would be toppled by a player roared on by a vocal home crowd, but the No. 3 seed found her form as the match wore on and she ultimately ran out a comfortable winner as Cornet crumbled in the final set.

Cornet, who has been as high as 11 in the world, hit her stride early and she was rewarded for stepping up to the baseline and dominated the rallies. Azarenka's usually reliable forehand was off colour and combined with her serving troubles, it resulted in Cornet dominating the opening set.

Azarenka broke at the start of the second, which came in a game when Cornet took a nasty tumble. Cornet also appeared troubled by a right leg problem and Azarenka found her way back into the match by taking the second set.

Cornet broke at the start of the third, but it proved to be the only bright point as Azarenka, whose court coverage improved markedly in the third set, went through the gears to secure a 4-6 6-3 6-1 success.

Up next for Azarenka is a meeting with 2011 champion Francesca Schiavone who crushed Marion Bartoli 6-2 6-1.

Jelena Jankovic came from a set behind to defeat ninth seed Samantha Stosur 3-6 6-3 6-4 and will now face Jamie Hampton after the American completed a shock 6-1 7-6(7) victory over Petra Kvitova.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands, arguably better known for her fashion statements, is making a name for herself in Paris and she battled to a 4-6 6-1 6-3 win over Paula Ormaechea.

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