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Sharapova Keeps Calm & Carries On

Zheng Jie built a hefty 4-1, double break lead in the second set but Maria Sharapova stormed back, winning six of the next seven games to close her out in straights and reach the fourth round.

Published June 01, 2013 12:01

Sharapova Keeps Calm & Carries On
Maria Sharapova

PARIS, France - Maria Sharapova continued her French Open title defense on Saturday, digging out of a big second set hole to close Zheng Jie out in straight sets and move through to the fourth round.

Sharapova had lost to Zheng before and after cruising through the first set things looked like they were headed much that same way, as the Chinese built a hefty 4-1, double-break lead in the second set. Some might have eased up a little and saved their energy for the third set, but not Sharapova - the No.2-seeded defending champion stormed back with six of seven games to close it out, 61 75.

"The good thing I can take from that match is that I played a good set, so that was a positive," Sharapova said in her post-match press conference. "But then I gave her all the momentum starting from the first game of the second set, which is really not a position that you want to be in.

"She's capable of turning matches around. I've seen her play against many top players where she's had great success. She used to be a seeded player - she's dropped a little bit in the rankings.

"But I'm happy with the way I found a way to win that second set without having to go into a third."

Sharapova was asked about playing this tough generation of Chinese players - Zheng, Li Na, Peng Shuai - and what makes them so tough. "The success that Li Na has had in her career is tremendous," she said. "I think everyone that comes from there is extremely difficult to play against. They're good athletes, they work extremely hard, and you can tell all of that when you play against them."

Speaking of hard work, Sharapova's improvement on clay over the last few years has been obvious - the Russian was asked about that incredible surface transition she has undergone in recent years.

"Well, I've always said that type of success, whether it's a movement thing or whether it's a confidence thing, it doesn't just come when you wake up in the morning and you all of a sudden feel like you're going to be a great mover on clay. For me it was an objective on hard, on grass, and on clay.

"I knew, and I know, that I'm a tall girl. I'm not the fastest, not the smoothest mover. But I know that's an area I can improve. And I know there are people who come to a surface they're not comfortable on and they don't put an effort in. That was never my case - I knew that, although it would be challenging and hard, I definitely wanted to work on it. If I'm faster on hard, I'm going to be faster on clay."

Should Sharapova win the French Open again, it will be the only Grand Slam she has won more than once - she has one of each Grand Slam at the moment. But they all have a special place in her heart.

"Every victory is special on its own. It has a different meaning, whether you've won that tournament before or not. Obviously when you win something for the first time it's different, especially a Grand Slam. Obviously last year here, it was the one I had always watned to win for so long. So that was the most challenging one for me. But would a repeat victory not be as special? No, absolutely not. It's obviously one thing to win, then another thing to defend. I would love to have done that."

Sharapova has now reached the second week at 11 of the last 12 Grand Slam tournaments, the only exception being the 2011 US Open, where she was ousted in the third round by Flavia Pennetta.

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