PARIS (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova’s impressive sequence of French Open results ended when the defending champion was knocked out 7-6(3) 6-4 by 13th-seeded Czech Lucie Safarova in the fourth round on Monday.
The second-seeded Russian had reached the previous three finals at Roland Garros, winning in 2012 and 2014, but could not handle her opponent’s steely forehand.
Safarova, who had never reached the quarter-finals on the Paris clay in 10 previous attempts, hit 20 forehand winners to unsettle the former world number one on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I felt like I had small openings, that I played a good few points, I just wasn’t able to keep that level up today,” Sharapova told a news conference.
”She was able to do that for a longer period of time. She was the much more aggressive player. She took the time away from me, created her angles and I didn‘t. That was the difference today.
“My opponent was at a much higher level more consistently than I was, and that results in a bad day at the office.”
Safarova, whose best grand slam was reaching the last four at Wimbledon last year, next faces 21st seed Garbine Muguruza after the Spaniard made the last eight for the second year in a row by beating Italy’s Flavia Pennetta in straight sets.
Sharapova, who had lost only one of her previous 24 matches at Roland Garros, dropped her serve in the third game but broke back in the eighth when her opponent double-faulted.
She then lost her fourth consecutive tiebreak of the season.
The Russian, who has five grand slams to her name, went 3-0 down in the second set but fought back to 3-3 after Safarova made a mess of a routine forehand at the net with the court wide open.
The 28-year-old Czech regained control and ended the contest on Sharapova’s serve with a forehand winner.
Editing by Tony Jimenez and Ken Ferris