PARIS, France - There isn't much she hasn't accomplished already, but Maria Sharapova pulled off another first at Roland Garros on Wednesday, fighting back from a 6-0 first set for the first time in her career and defeating an inspired Jelena Jankovic to move through to the semifinals, 06 64 63.
Things looked very shaky for Sharapova in the first set, with five winners being far outweighed by 20 unforced errors, and a rock solid Jankovic - who had just four unforced errors - rolling through it at love in just 29 minutes. Sharapova had never come back from a love first set in her whole WTA career - in fact, all five times it had happened before, she had never even pushed the match to a third set.
But she's where she is in history for a reason, and right from the start of the second set the No.2-seeded Sharapova buckled down, putting together even numbers the rest of the way - 25 winners, 25 unforced - and willing her way past the No.18-seeded Jankovic after an hour and 58 minutes.
"I started the match off with a large number of unforced errors and her playing really well, smart, doing the right things, being consistent," Sharapova said afterwards. "It was really the opposite for me.
"So I was really happy I was able to win the first two games of the second set. That was really important. You know, at least give her something to think about - she was a bit in cruise control for a long period of time. That was really important, and I'm really happy that I pulled through."
With all kinds of pressure and expectations, how does one regroup so well after such a blowout?
"I wanted to put that chapter behind me," Sharapova said. "No matter how many errors I made or how disappointed I was with the way I started the match, I knew I could still create chances out there; obviously taking them is another question. But I knew I was capable of doing much better. It was just a game at a time. And obviously the third set was still extremely tough. But I was happy with it."
Sharapova was told in her post-match presser it was the first time she had rebounded from 6-0.
"To be honest, if it was 1-6 or 2-6 or 3-6, I would have treated it the same way. Obviously I didn't do enough things right to win that first set. But it was certainly nice to change that around."
Jankovic may have lost in the end, but she definitely reannounced herself this fortnight - she had an impossible second set comeback from 5-0 down against Daniela Hantuchova in the first round, took out Samantha Stosur in the third round, and ultimately pushed the World No.2 to the brink of defeat.
"A few points here and there made the difference," Jankovic said. "I got broken in that third set, unfortunately, and made a couple of bad decisions. It could have gone my way, but it didn't, and this is tennis, and this is sport. I cannot complain. I did pretty well. I put myself in a position to win and beat Maria. I'm pleased with the way I've been playing and how I've been improving recently.
"I really wanted to come back and and be a top player, and beat the top players too. So I went out and trained hard and I've been playing very well again. I've been beating good players - Na Li, Stosur - I don't know who else. But it really gives me the confidence and belief that I can do it again.
"I believe in myself. My time will come."
Awaiting Sharapova in the semifinals is No.3 seed Victoria Azarenka, who beat No.12 seed Maria Kirilenko in her quarterfinal (read more here). Azarenka leads Sharapova in their head-to-head, 7-5.
"We haven't played on clay in almost a year, I believe - last time was in Stuttgart," Sharapova said. "She's playing really well this tournament. Always a tough match. We have played each other so many times, there are really no secrets between each other in terms of our game styles, and what we do well and what we don't do well. It's the semifinals and, you know, I'm really looking forward to it."