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, 3-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.
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Rain or shine, clay or mud, Sunday or Monday, Rafael Nadal rules Roland Garros. The man they call "Rafa" won his record seventh French Open title on Monday, returning a day after getting rained out to put the finishing touches on a 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic, and deny Djokovic in his own quest for history — the "Novak Slam." Full story
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), 6-2 victory over 44th-ranked Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic.
"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, and then he's like, after the match, 'Really? What's the point? I mean, what's the point of having me?' But I apologized when I hired him, in advance, so he's OK."
"It's good we have a day off tomorrow so we can step it up again," he said. "This was clearly a match where she was not playing as well as she should."
Sharapova and Hogstedt both said her wrist, which she repeatedly flexed during the match and fiddled with at her news conference afterward, shouldn't be an issue going forward. 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 of Estonia, 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 of the Netherlands 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?"
Kanepi didn't indicate whether that was based on having seen Sharapova's error-strewn performance against Zakopalova on an afternoon when the temperature dipped into the 50s and the occasional drizzle fell. Sharapova said she jammed her wrist on a service return "but it should be fine. ... Nothing to worry about."
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 about the work of chair umpire Julie Kjendlie of Norway, engaging in a couple of extended arguments about rulings.
"The first one was the most questionable one, I guess, because she couldn't find the mark. ... What do you say to that? You can't find the mark? I mean, it was like, `Well, isn't that your job?'... I mean, we're on clay courts. Usually when there is no mark, it means it's on the line," Sharapova said. "She had an answer for everything out there."
Defending champion Li's surprising exit came against Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, an eyeglasses-wearing doubles specialist ranked 142nd in singles who needed to go through qualifying rounds to enter the main draw.
"I have to find the reason why I lose the match," said Li, China's only Grand Slam singles champion. "I will find out. But not today."
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.
"Even if some thoughts come to my head, I will try to put them away and focus on what I need to do," said Shvedova, who won doubles titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open with Vania King of the U.S. in 2010.
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