PARIS - On days like these, when so little goes right and so much goes awry, Maria Sharapova tosses away the strategies and scouting reports her coach devises and, well, does whatever it takes to win.
Locked in a three-set, three-hour struggle at a wet and windy French Open on Monday, Sharapova’s right, racket-swinging wrist was aching - and that, she insisted, was the least of her problems.
There was the tumble to her backside that Sharapova could laugh about later. The exasperating line calls, and what the second-seeded Russian considered an obstinate chair umpire. The 12 double faults, plus 41 other errors of Sharapova’s own doing. The nine breaks she allowed, including three while serving for the match. The unseeded foe who wouldn’t go away.
“It was,’’ Sharapova summed up, “a good test for me.’’
Certainly the first she’s faced at Roland Garros this year. After dropping a total of five games in three matches that averaged less than an hour each, Sharapova moved into the quarterfinals at the only Grand Slam tournament she hasn’t won by dispensing with tactics and swinging away until she finally pulled out a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2 victory over 44th-ranked Klara Zakopalova.
“I’m useless with game plans. That’s probably the one thing [coach Thomas Hogstedt] just gets so frustrated with me about,’’ Sharapova said. “I go out there and I do my own thing.’’
Sharapova and Hogstedt both said her wrist, which she repeatedly flexed during the match and her media session, shouldn’t be an issue. Something else that might not be? The opposition. It seems that nearly every day a potential roadblock is swept out of the draw, from Serena Williams, to Francesca Schiavone, to Li Na.
Indeed, Sharapova now has one thing in common with every woman left: None has won the French Open.
Her next opponent, No. 23 Kaia Kanepi, hasn’t been beyond the quarterfinals at any Grand Slam tournament but got to that round for the fourth time by defeating unseeded Arantxa Rus, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.
Asked whether she thinks she can beat three-time major champion Sharapova, Kanepi replied: “If I play well, of course. Why not?’’
As for her second-set stumble, Sharapova chuckled and said: “That was my first fall of the clay season, which is the biggest shocker. I usually have a few before the French Open.’’
She was less amused by the work of chair umpire Julie Kjendlie of Norway, engaging in a couple of extended arguments about rulings.
“She had an answer for everything out there,’’ Sharapova said.
Defending champion Li’s surprising exit came against Yaroslava Shvedova, an eyeglasses-wearing doubles specialist ranked 142d in singles who needed to go through qualifying rounds to enter the main draw.
Shvedova dropped to her knees after taking the last 10 games to eliminate the seventh-seeded Li, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0, and become the ninth qualifier to reach the French Open quarterfinals. She’d be the first to make it to the semifinals if she beats Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who ended the career-best run of unseeded American Varvara Lepchenko, 6-2, 6-1.
There are no heartwarming, out-of-nowhere stories like Lepchenko’s among the remaining men. It’s the first Grand Slam tournament since the 1984 French Open with all top six seeded men in the quarterfinals.
Rafael Nadal’s pursuit of a record seventh French Open title rolled on with another rout, this one a 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 victory over his pal, 13th-seeded Juan Monaco.
Nadal is 49-1 for his career at the French Open. He’s lost a total of 19 games this tournament, the fewest through four completed matches at Roland Garros since Guillermo Vilas’s 16 games in 1982.
When three-time major finalist Andy Murray walked on court, he was booed by a partisan crowd pulling for France’s Richard Gasquet. Murray ignored a poor start, a still-bothersome back, and more taunting and teasing from fans to win, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.