PARIS: Defending champion Maria Sharapova joined third seed Victoria Azarenka in the French Open quarter-finals Monday as both posted routine fourth-round wins.
Sharapova was all business in seeing off American 17th seed Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3 to set up a meeting with Serbian 18th seed Jelena Jankovic, who thrashed US hope Jamie Hampton 6-0, 6-2, while double Australian Open champion Azarenka swamped 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-0.
Sharapova, who in beating Sara Errani in last year's final became the sixth player in the Open era to complete a full collection of Grand Slams, was rarely troubled by Stephens, Australian Open semi-finalist last January, the Floridian 20-year old, gifting her a final break by hitting long on match point. "I knew this was going to be a really hard match so I'm delighted to be in the quarter-final," said Sharapova, who found the wind made her task a little more challenging than she had hoped. "We had a few freaky points, a few shanks. But, overall, I was happy with the way I focused most of the match," said the Russian, who joked her father "thinks I can beat Rafael Nadal on clay."
Self-critically she added: "This tournament I don't think I have played, you know, my best level, especially in the first few rounds. I thought I needed to step it up today. Yet it only gets tougher from here."
Jankovic, who coasted past an outclassed Hampton in 62min, has a 1-7 career record against Sharapova, whom she beat on grass six years ago, and conceded the odds are stacked against her. "It will be a tough one -I will just try to play my best tennis," said the 28-year-old.
Next up for Azarenka, meanwhile, is a meeting with Russian 12th seed and erstwhile doubles partner Maria Kirilenko after her win over Schiavone moved her into the last eight for the third time in Paris.
The protagonists notably paired up at the 2011 Australian Open, where they finished runners-up. Then they were rivals as Azarenka won their London Olympics bronze medal encounter last summer.
Azarenka was delighted with her form, given that the French Open is the only Grand Slam where she has failed to get beyond the quarter-finals having been beaten at the last-eight stage by Dinara Safina in 2009 and by eventual champion Li Na two years later. "I think it was the most composed and the most consistent match so far," she said. "The beginning was back and forth. I feel like I didn't take all of the opportunities but there was kind of a build-up to later on that I was doing the right thing."
Kirilenko, who had treatment for a sore shoulder, saw off unseeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States 7-5, 6-4 to reach the last eight at Roland Garros for the first time after recovering from losing the opening three games.
The 26-year-old from Moscow, who broke in the sixth and eighth games to make up for her slow start and then overcame an opening service loss at the start of the second set, has now equalled her best ever Grand Slam showing of runs to the quarters at Wimbledon 2012 and the Australian Open three seasons ago.
Azarenka has a 3-2 winning record against Kirilenko -- who won the first two matches of their series although her last triumph was back in 2007. "Maria, I played her a lot of times. I think the last time we played was the Olympics. She's definitely improved a lot over the last couple years since she's a very motivated player and also a good friend of mine" said Azarenka.
Source: Geo Tv