May 15, 2008 / 12:35 AM / 9 years ago

Sharapova battles to Italian Open quarters

<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>

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.

“There were a lot of physical rollercoaster rides. I’d put two or three points together and then the level dropped. The good thing is I got a win and I can play another match tomorrow.”

Serena twice came back from a break down in the first set before taking Errani’s serve in the final game with the help of two big smashes and a netcord winner.

LAST HOPE

Italy’s last hope in the tournament also proved a worthy opponent in the second set, when former world number one Serena again recovered to clinch the match.

“She was an unbelievable fighter and she never gave up. She has great spirit,” said Serena.

Jankovic played assured tennis, mixing her strokes well, but Kirilenko made some careless errors and at one stage blasted a ball into the stands in frustration.

“I was very focused from the beginning. I played quite aggressively and I‘m very pleased with the performance,” the Serb said, adding she is battling illness.

“I’ve been sick for a week and I’ve been struggling a little. I have problems breathing. I‘m still on antibiotics.”

Sharapova will play Patty Schnyder in the quarter-finals after the Swiss ninth seed clinched a fine tussle with eighth-seeded Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli 4-6 6-4 7-6.

Russian sixth seed Anna Chakvetadze beat Polish 12th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4 1-6 6-1 to set up a match with Tsvetana Pironkova.

Bulgarian qualifier Pironkova, who stunned Serbian top seed Ana Ivanovic on Wednesday, progressed after Belarussian Victoria Azarenka retired with a knee injury from their third round match when the former was 6-2 1-0 up.

Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar

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