Sharapova Falls at the Hands of Safina

UnknownRussia's No. 14 seed Dinara Safina rejoicing after winning a fourth-round match against compatriot Maria Sharapova at the French Open in Paris on Sunday.
PARIS -- With a stunning comeback against Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina made her big brother proud. The sister of two-time Grand Slam winner Marat Safin, Safina erased a 5-1 deficit in the final set, won 18 of the last 21 points and beat Sharapova 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 on Sunday at the French Open.

The 20-year-old Safina, seeded 14th, received a congratulatory message from her brother after earning her first berth in a Grand Slam quarterfinal.

"He said, 'Great fight, good comeback,'" she said. "It's nice."

The lone remaining American in the men's draw was eliminated when No. 8-seeded James Blake lost to No. 25 Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-4. The third-round match had been suspended after two sets Saturday because of darkness.

Top-ranked Roger Federer, seeking his fourth consecutive major title, advanced to the quarterfinals by beating No. 20-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Croatians Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic also won, as did two-time runner-up Kim Clijsters on the women's side.

Sharapova, seeded fourth, failed to convert two set points in the opening set, then rallied but couldn't close out the victory. She was twice broken serving for the match, hitting errant forehands on three consecutive points to lose serve for 5-all.

"At that point you're thinking left and right, and you don't know what you're doing," Sharapova said. "You go into a different world, and you make dumb decisions."

The 5-foot-11 1/2 Safina controlled the rallies in the final two games, keeping her Russian compatriot on the move and on her heels.

"I took everything in my hands," Safina said. "Before, she was dictating and I had always to run from corner to corner. I said, 'OK, now I'll try to make her run.' I started to be more aggressive."

When Safina sealed the upset with a backhand crosscourt winner, she threw her arms aloft, then swung her racket one last time with glee.

The tournament was the first since April 1 for Sharapova, who withdrew from two events leading up to Roland Garros because of a right ankle injury. She sought to shrug off the clay-court collapse.

"I haven't played a lot of matches in the past weeks and don't feel like I'm match-tough enough," she said. "Of course I'm disappointed, but I didn't think I would be playing my best tennis here."

Safina will next play another Russian, former U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The No. 8-seeded Kuznetsova lost her serve seven times but rallied past No. 9 Francesca Schiavone 1-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Blake blew an easy volley to lose serve in the next-to-last game against Frenchman Monfils, who then closed out the victory to the delight of a partisan crowd on Court 1. Several times during play the fans annoyed Blake, who complained to the chair umpire and once invited a spectator out of the stands to check the mark on a disputed line call.


Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

Davydenko saluting the crowd Sunday after beating Gaudio at Roland Garros.

The spectator did, and the call by the umpire went in Blake's favor.

The No. 4-seeded Ljubicic needed only two games to close out a victory over Juan Monaco, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Their match was suspended Saturday with Ljubicic leading 4-2 in the final set.

The Croatian overcame a two-set deficit for the third time in his career and improved to 6-12 in five-set matches.

Federer will next play the No. 12-seeded Ancic, who reached the Roland Garros quarterfinals for the first time by beating No. 7 Tommy Robredo 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. A weary Ancic hobbled behind the baseline and required treatment from a trainer during the 10th game of the final set before earning the victory.

Clijsters, seeded second, beat No. 15 Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 6-4.

Sharapova was two points from victory serving at 5-2 but won only three more points, one on a double fault.

The 2004 Wimbledon champion has reached the semifinals at every major event except Roland Garros, but she dismissed those who doubt she can win a title in Paris. "I think I'll prove people wrong in a few years," Sharapova said.

In a late match Sunday, Nikolai Davydenko beat Gaston Gaudio in four sets, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.