at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Paris – Maria Sharapova struggled into the French Open quarterfinals on Monday, defeating Czech veteran Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in an error-scarred clash which featured 21 breaks of serve.
The Russian second seed, seeking a Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam, goes on to face either Estonian 23rd seed Kaia Kanepi or Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands for a place in the semi-finals.
But she will be hoping for an improvement in conditions in Wednesday's quarter-final after a stiff wind and bitter cold, which saw temperatures dip to a chilly 14 degrees, played havoc with her game, temper and movement.
The statistics of Monday's match on Philippe Chatrier court told a grim tale.
Sharapova finished with 53 unforced errors to her opponent's 48 and served up 12 double faults against seven.
With serve constantly under siege, Sharapova carved out 31 break points in total, converting 12.
Sharapova, the favourite for the title following the exits of top seed Victoria Azarenka, defending champion Li Na and Serena
Williams, rarely settled in the three hour 11 minute encounter.
Twice she argued with umpire Julie Kjendlie while also taking an embarrassing, bottom-first tumble on to the damp red clay midway during the ninth game of the second set.
The world number two had been 4-1 and 5-2 ahead before wrapping up the opening set which saw few quality rallies in a gruelling battle of attrition and seven breaks in 10 games
The second set followed a similar pattern with 10 breaks of serve before Zakopalova, who handed Sharapova a first round defeat on her Grand Slam debut at the 2003 Australian Open, clinched the tiebreaker on a third set point.
Sharapova raced to a 5-1 lead in the decider, but squandered a match point on her 12th double fault.
In the next game, however, Zakopalova suffered a similar lapse as her seventh double fault on a second match point gave Sharapova victory. – Sapa-AFP