PARIS, France - Sloane Stephens was building her momentum - following some quiet times after Australia, she had won seven of her last nine matches going into this one - but Maria Sharapova was just too sharp, beating the American in straight sets to move through to the French Open quarterfinals.
With the wind swirling on Court Philippe Chatrier, it wasn't easy for Sharapova and Stephens to produce their best tennis - they both had negative winners-to-errors differentials. But Sharapova tamed her game just a little bit better on the day with a -3 differential (17 to 20) while Stephens' game went awry with a -10 differential (15 to 25), and at the end of the day it was the No.2-seeded Sharapova who came out on top, defeating the No.17-seeded Stephens in an hour and 28 minutes, 64 63.
It was far closer than their encounter in Rome a few weeks ago, which Sharapova won, 62 61.
"She played much better than she did in Rome," Sharapova said. "She obviously knew she had to. This is a different stage and I'm sure she was geared up. Especially when you lose a couple of weeks ago, you want a bit of revenge, and I'm sure she had that type of feeling going into that match-up today.
"And also, it's Roland Garros and the conditions are always going to be tricky, which also played a part in it. Patience was really important - we had a few freaky points, a few shanks, you know.
"That was all a challenge, and I was really happy with the way I came through against her today."
Sharapova was very complimentary towards Stephens when asked about her in her presser.
"I think Sloane has a tremendous amount of potential," Sharapova said. "And she has a lot of things in her game in which there is a lot of room for even more improvement - there are some players you play against and you're not quite sure if they will be able to develop something to a different level, but I think she will. She has a big game already - big strokes, pretty good serve. She has a lot of time to develop.
"If she's in the right hands at the right time, I'm sure she's going to have a great career."
"There's always room for improvement," Stephens said. "Maria's obviously a really great competitor if she's No.2 in the world, so it's tough. You've just got to keep improving. I wouldn't say there's a drastic difference - you just have to keep getting better. Some things I can improve on, so I'll do that.
"Overall I've done pretty well, though. Not to have played that well coming into the clay court season and to get a good amount of matches in and get some confidence, I think it's a good thing."
Stephens was then asked one word to sum up her experience at Roland Garros this year. "Dazzling," she replied. "Because every year, every Slam is always pretty special - there's always something crazy going on. I think this year it was just refreshing to get back on the court and compete and just have fun and enjoy myself. It's obviously been a stressful couple of months, so just to get out and not have to worry about anything and just play, it was fine. I enjoyed myself here at Roland Garros this year."
Next up for Sharapova is No.18 seed Jelena Jankovic, who beat Jamie Hampton later in the day, 60 62. Sharapova leads Jankovic in their head-to-head, 7-1, but they have never played on clay.
"We know each other quite well," Sharapova said. "We played against each other quite a bit in the juniors all the time. We spent a lot of time together. We were in the same group. We were playing matches and tournaments against each other. And I think the clay really suits her game. I think she's a great retriever and gets a lot of balls back. She's playing much more consistent I believe than she's done in the last couple of years, which is nice to see, because she was at that level and maintained that level for quite a bit of time. But yeah, she's a really tough opponent. I look forward to it."