One point from the quarterfinals, a shrieking Maria Sharapova again came up short at the French Open.
Bidding for the only Grand Slam title she has yet to win, the top-ranked Sharapova twice blew big leads in the second set Monday and lost to fellow Russian Dinara Safina, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-2.
Sharapova’s customary screeches reached maximum volume as the match slipped away, and the noise seemed to annoy fans. They whistled and booed Sharapova as she left Court Suzanne Lenglen after the match, and she didn’t acknowledge the crowd.
“I can’t please everyone,” she said. “It’s not in my job description. I’m an athlete, and I go out there and fight my heart out. They paid the ticket to watch me, so they must appreciate me on some level, right?”
Sharapova won five consecutive games in the second set to go ahead 5-2, and held a match point serving in the next game. She also led 5-2 in the second tiebreaker before losing five consecutive points, then unraveled down the stretch, losing the final four games and 10 of the last 12 points.
It was the latest setback for Sharapova on clay, her least-favorite surface.
“On this stuff, things happen in a hurry,” Sharapova said.
“It was all in her hands,” Safina said. “Then suddenly it changed.”
Safina, the younger sister of two-time Grand Slam champion Marat Safin, duplicated her upset of Sharapova in the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2006. She received a congratulatory text from her brother and said she hopes to join him as the winner of a major title.
“A dream of all our family,” she said. “Once we do this, we can put the racket on the wall and say we did everything we could. But to get to his level, I still have to work a little bit harder.”
The No. 13-seeded Safina’s next opponent will be No. 7 Elena Dementieva, who won another all-Russian matchup against No. 11 Vera Zvonareva, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.
Trailing Sharapova 5-3 in the second set, Safina saved match point with a backhand winner, then broke two points later when Sharapova pushed a forehand wide. In the second tiebreaker, Sharapova double-faulted for 5-4 and then hit three errant backhands.
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“Just trying to pump myself up,” she said. “I was trying to get angry about something. I just started playing tentatively.”
She erased three break points before conceding the game with a forehand into the net. That gave Safina a 4-2 lead, and she closed out the victory, falling to her knees with glee when Sharapova socked a wild forehand on match point.
It was latest in a series of memorable victories over the past month for Safina. She was the last player to beat recently retired Justine Henin, a four-time French Open champion. That upset came on clay in early May at Berlin, where Safina went on to win the biggest title of her career.
“She’s a really tough opponent on this surface,” Sharapova said. “I came very close, but it didn’t go my way for some reason.”
Watching Rafa Nadal churn his way through the claycourt season over the past few weeks, it seems nothing much has changed since his French Open triumph a year ago despite a lengthy injury layoff.
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