French Open: Ladies’ first

Sports

Pritha Sarkar

A new name will be engraved on the Suzanne Lenglen trophy after the last remaining champion, China's Li Na, was felled in the fourth round of the French Open by a bespectacled 142nd ranked qualifier better known as a doubles specialist.

Li had captured the hearts of more than a billion fans in her homeland a year ago after becoming the first player from an Asian nation to win a singles Grand Slam crown but joy turned to despair on Monday as she was dethroned with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 humbling by Kazhak Yaroslava Shvedova.

Shvedova, who now stands one match away from becoming the first qualifier to reach the last four in Paris, said she had only one strategy for the match: "Fight, fight, fight, fight".

Maria Sharapova, bidding for a first French Open title and the World No.1 ranking, staggered into the quarter-finals after an ugly 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 win over Klara Zakopalova in a three-hour battle played in swirling winds.

Holding serve became a major problem as the Philippe Chatrier Court turned into a dust bowl with a total of 21 games, 17 of them in the first two sets, going against the serve.

Flummoxed by the unruly playing conditions, Sharapova's anger boiled over at 1-1 in the second set when she felt her Czech opponent was incorrectly awarded a point. "How can you call it out if you can't show me the mark?" a fuming Sharapova quizzed umpire Julie Minori Kjendlie as whistles and jeers rang around the arena.

No amount of arguing or icy stares from Sharapova would change Kjendlie's mind and 10 games later, the Russian was at it again after she called a ball out which prompted Zakopalova to stop playing. It was promptly awarded to the Czech.

Zakopalova, ranked 44th, went on to win the set but Sharapova still completed a messy victory. As she walked off court after three hours 11 minutes - which was 17 minutes longer than her first three matches combined — Sharapova was greeted with more whistles.

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