Sharapova battles to Italian Open quarters

Thu May 15, 2008 5:35pm EDT
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By Paul Virgo

ROME (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova battled past Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki to move into the Italian Open quarter-finals with a 6-4 7-6 win on Thursday.

American fifth seed Serena Williams tamed lively Italian wildcard Sara Errani 6-4 6-3 to join Sharapova in the last eight, while title holder Jelena Jankovic strolled past Russia's Maria Kirilenko 6-1 6-1.

Serbian fourth seed Jankovic will take on Serena's sister Venus Williams, who secured a 7-5 6-2 victory over Russian 10th seed Vera Zvonareva.

Serena will meet French qualifier Alize Cornet, who sprang the surprise of the day with a 6-2 6-4 win over Russian third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, last year's defeated finalist.

Russian Sharapova, who will become world number one next week after Belgian Justine Henin retired from tennis on Wednesday, found herself in another fight having scraped past Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in three sets on Wednesday.

The Australian Open champion gained an early edge, sealing a break in the third game with a crosscourt backhand winner. The Dane hit back in the middle of the first set but Sharapova soon regained the advantage and served out with some big forehands.

The Russian then produced a remarkable recovery in the second set, winning five consecutive games to haul herself back from 5-1 down. She failed to hold when serving for the match but edged home in the tiebreak.

"I started good. In the middle of the match I had a little letdown. Quite a big one actually," she told a news conference.   Continued...

<p>Russia's Maria Sharapova serves to compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova during their match at the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California March 21, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>