Serena battles into LA quarters

August 11, 2006 12:17 AM
Maria Sharapova 225 w

CARSON, California (Ticker) - Maria Sharapova has never looked this good, and that's saying something.

The top-seeded Sharapova cruised to another straight-sets win Thursday, dropping just three games in an annihilation of 15th seed Marion Bartoli in the third round of the $600,000 JPMorgan Chase Open.

After falling in the Wimbledon semifinals to eventual champion Amelie Mauresmo, the 19-year-old Sharapova took a month off. The time away seems to have done her good.

The ravishing Russian has ravaged the competition, ringing up seven straight match wins without dropping a set. In that run is her first win in five career meetings with Belgium's Kim Clijsters in the final of last week's Acura Classic.

The latest victim was Bartoli, who succumbed, 6-2, 6-1 in 73 minutes.

"Why would I want to make it any longer than I have to?" Sharapova said. "I definitely felt I had to go out there, do my job and get out."

Sharapova held a 38-6 advantage in winners and scored six service breaks.

"I wouldn't say I overpowered her, but I took advantage of the short balls," she said. "I definitely took advantage of her second serve, which was about 80 miles per hour. You have to if you want to break your opponent. That's when you have put pressure on her. I definitely wanted to utilize that."

Although Sharapova is on a roll at the moment, the world's fourth-ranked player knows the grind will take its toll leading up to the U.S. Open later this month.

"I know I've definitely played well, but I've played seven matches and I haven't done that in a while," she said. "I've got to realize that I'm going to be a little bit fatigued and my body is going to be sore. But it's whether my mind wants to go through that or not. It's going to be up to me to see how long I can keep it going, mentally and physically."

Third-seeded countrywoman Elena Dementieva displayed some early frustrations in recording a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 14 Shahar Peer of Israel.

The world's sixth-ranked player, Dementieva blew a 4-0 lead and had a handful of outbursts in her native tongue before regrouping to avenge a loss to Peer in the third round of the French Open.

"I was very upset with leading 4-0 because I was not playing the way I like to play," she said. "She was playing very well and I was playing defensive. It was like the French Open, and almost losing the set. So many memories were going through my mind."

Dementieva continued to berate herself in the second set but managed to build a 5-2 lead. After Peer broke to pull within 5-3, Dementieva returned the favor in the next game, cashing in on her second match point.

In search of her first title since Tokyo in February, Dementieva next will face American Bethanie Mattek, who breezed past Ukraine's Alona Bondarenko, 6-1, 6-1.

Dementieva could meet Sharapova for the seventh career time in the semifinals. Before that possible matchup, Sharapova will have to get past fifth-seeded compatriot Dinara Safina, who eliminated American Laura Granville, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).

Sharapova has split four matches with Safina but has dropped the last two, including most recently at the French Open. However, she is looking to take the upper hand in the all-time series.

"I've lost to her the last two times and they were really tough matches," Sharapova said. "The last match was disappointing, but (Friday) is a new day and hopefully a new result."

Serena Williams 225 w
There are three Americans left in the draw - Mattek, Meghann Shaughnessy and seven-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams.

Williams sidestepped a pothole on her road to recovery from a left knee injury, rallying for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 7 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.

Williams reached the semifinals at Cincinnati three weeks ago in her first appearance since the Australian Open, when she lost to Hantuchova in the third round. But the former top-ranked player did not appear as if she would make it to the quarters here after an error-filled loss in the first set.

But with the support of her fans, the local product from nearby Compton took the middle set, putting the momentum in her favor.

In the decisive third set, Williams utilized a service break in the seventh game. She held off a break point in the eighth to go ahead 5-3 before capping the comeback with a final break when Hantuchova's forehand sailed over the baseline.

Williams improved to 4-1 lifetime against Hantuchova.

Shaughnessy took out unseeded Spaniard Virginia Ruano Pascual, 6-3, 6-3, to book a berth in the round of eight against either Williams or Hantuchova.

No. 16 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia & Montenegro rolled to a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Samantha Stosur of Australia, who stunned fourth-seeded American Lindsay Davenport in the second round.

Jankovic will meet compatriot and 10th seed Ana Ivanovic, who dismissed sixth seed Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany, 6-1, 6-4.