Move over Masha – Dinara comes of age
Dinara Safina lit up a dull and damp Roland Garros on Monday when she bullied top seed and world No.1 Maria Sharapova out at the fourth round stage.
The powerful sister of Marat Safin produced a determined and mature performance to come back from a set and 5-2 down saving a match point along the way to win 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 6-2 on day nine of the Paris slam.
Thirteenth-seeded Dinara Safina, who in the quarters will play another Russian Elena Dementieva did well to recover from the disappointment of losing the first set after she let slip a 6-4 lead in the tie-break.
When Sharapova went 5-2 ahead in the rain-interrupted second it looked like the worlds best player was going to survive.
But Dinara Safina fought off a match point at 5-3, bounced back to force a second tie-break and then recovered from 2-5 in the breaker, rattling off five successive points to level the match.
After a topsy-turvy start to the decider Safina delivered the killer blow midway through the set when she clinched a marathon sixth game against serve to go ahead 4-2. From there Sharapovas challenge simply collapsed.
“After my title this season in Berlin, this was one of my best matches and one of my best comebacks,” said Safina.
“I knew I could beat her but I put too much pressure on myself and was way too passive. I was too dependent on her and I was 2-5 down in the second set and facing a match point.
“But I hit a winner on her match point and it changed things. Before I was just running and playing the ball back. But I had to focus on myself and not wait for her mistakes and let her dictate.
“Maybe she went a little down but I went for it and for my shots.”
Earlier, seventh seed Dementieva hit back after a poor second set to beat Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.
Svetlana Kuznetsova was leading Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 2-2 when bad light stopped their contest.
They will resume on Tuesday, while the Petra Kvitova-Kaia Kanepi match never made it onto court after a large chunk of the day was lost to the bad weather.
In the mens event, top seed Roger Federer eased through with a 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 victory over Frenchman Julien Benneteau.
The top seed plays Chilean 24th seed Fernando Gonzalez in the last eight. The South American saw off American Robby Ginepri 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-1.
Late in the day Gael Monfils and David Ferrer joined Federer and Gonzalez in the last eight. Monfils beat Ivan Ljubicic in four sets, while fifth-seeded Ferrer outlasted Radek Stepanek in five sets.
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