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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sharapova progress continues

Pacific Life Open Day 7

Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova's bid for a third title on the grass at Edgbaston remains on course.

The Russian dispatched Francesca Schiavone 6-1 6-3 in a little more than an hour to reach the last eight of the AEGON Classic in Birmingham.

However, British interest was ended as Elena Baltacha, Mel South and Naomi Cavaday all bowed out on a rain-interrupted fourth day.

Sharapova, who had earlier had to come back to break American Alexa Glatch's serve in one game to complete a 6-3 6-4 victory which had begun on Wednesday afternoon, had little trouble in seeing off her Italian opponent.

"It's never easy, but everyone has to deal with these situations," Sharapova said of the rain-enforced delay. It's tricky, but I'm glad I could make it."

The 22-year-old, champion on these courts in 2004 and 2005, is starting to rediscover the form which saw her win Wimbledon five years ago.

A shoulder injury sidelined her for 10 months last year and she is only just starting to climb back up the world rankings (she is currently 73rd) having slipped out of the top 100.

Sharapova now faces Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, who saw off 14th seed Roberta Vinci 6-1 6-4 after earlier defeating Michaella Krajicek 6-2 6-4.

British number two Baltacha failed to get past the second round - her match against Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova having been delayed a day because of bad weather.

Despite taking the first set on a tie-break Pavlyuchenkova, the fifth seed, fought back strongly to take the match into a final set which went her way in the tie-break.

"I'm disappointed with the loss. I did have quite a few opportunities in the match but I think I've got to be positive," she said.

"On paper, I wasn't favourite to win but I managed to stay in there with her and play some really good tennis."

Pavlyuchenkova then went on to lose 7-6 3-6 6-2 to India's Sania Mirza, who had defeated British number one Anne Keothavong yesterday.

Mirza faces 16th seed Melinda Czink, of Hungary, after she beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and then third seed Aleksandra Wozniak.

South also could not make it past the second round, losing 6-3 6-1 to number one seed Jie Zheng from China.

"I knew I had a chance going into this match as I have already played five matches on grass over the last two weeks and this was her first one," said South, who reached the quarter-finals of last week's AEGON Trophy in Nottingham.

"But she is 16 in the world for a reason and she proved it." Cavaday's good run ended in the third round when she lost 6-4 6-2 to Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele, runner-up in Nottingham.

"She was quick out of the blocks and put pressure on me from the very beginning with her depth," said the 20-year-old world number 297, who was playing an opponent 198 places above her in the rankings.

"She is a very good grass court player and that made the difference. Despite it all, I am very proud of my performances this week and can only take away the positives."

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