Russian world No.2 Maria Sharapova reached her third French Open semifinal on Wednesday, defeating Estonia's Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 6-3 to take another step closer to a career Grand Slam.
“I am happy to be back in the semifinals. I love coming back here to challenge myself to go further in the tournament,” said Sharapova, who can reclaim the world No.1 spot if she gets to the title match.
“I won two tournaments coming into Paris, in Stuttgart and Rome, and they gave me a lot of confidence. But every event is different. I am just happy to improve and I know it'll get tougher from here.”
On another chilly, gloomy day in the French capital, Sharapova and Kanepi, who made the quarterfinals in 2008, exchanged breaks in the first two games before the Russian picked up two more in the third and seventh games.
Kanepi, the 23rd seed, saved two set points in the eighth game, but was powerless on the third when Sharapova unleashed a fierce serve down the middle which the Estonian could only deflect into the stands.
The start of the second set was just as untidy as the first, with the world No.2 giving up a break to slip 2-0 down on a fourth double fault and then retrieving it immediately in the next to trail 2-1.
Kanepi, who put out former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki in the third round, was quickly another break down while a Sharapova hold to love gave the Russian a 4-2 lead.
She squandered the opportunity to serve out the match in the eighth game when she was broken to love, but it was a brief respite for the 26-year-old Estonian, who ballooned a forehand wide to hand Sharapova the tie in the next.
Kvitova in last four
Fourth seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic joined Sharapova in the semifinals with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.
The Wimbledon champion will play second seed Maria Sharapova of Russia for a place in Saturday's final.
Meanwhile, Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi earned themselves a shot at their second Grand Slam title together by breezing into their maiden French Open mixed doubles final. The seventh-seeded Indian pair thrashed the un-seeded Kazak-Italian combination of Galina Voskoboeva and Daniele Bracciali 6-4, 6-2 to record a facile victory in an hour and 10 minutes.
It is for the third time that Sania and Bhupathi have reached a Grand Slam final together. They won the 2009 Australia Open and had ended runners-up at the same tournament in 2008.
Sania had become the first woman from India to win a Grand Slam in 2009, while Bhupathi has so far won 11 major titles, seven of which are mixed doubles trophies.
Bhupathi was strong with his serve and Sania was sharp at the net as the Indian duo proved too strong for their rivals.
A Bhupathi volley winner in the seventh game gave the Indians a commanding 5-2 lead and Sania comfortably served out the match in the next game.
Galina netted a forehand to give the Indians their first matchpoint and Sania hit a crushing backhand winner to seal the issue.
Djokovic, Federer advance
Earlier on Tuesday, Novak Djokovic kept alive his Grand Slam hopes at Roland Garros, saving four match points against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before pulling off a nail-biting 6-1, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-1 quarterfinal win.
Djokovic's next opponent is Roger Federer, who bounced back from a two-set deficit to beat Juan-Martin del Potro 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-0, 6-3. It will be a rematch of their semifinal here last year when Federer ended the Serb's 43-match winning streak.
Federer victory over del Potro meant he reached a record-equalling 31st Grand Slam semifinal. He pulled level with Jimmy Connors's mark.