Maria Sharapova reached her third French Open semi-final on Wednesday, defeating Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 6-3 to take another step closer to a career Grand Slam.
The Russian world number two, who was also a semi-finalist in 2007 and 2011, will face Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova for a place in Saturday’s final.
“I am happy to be back in the semi-finals. I love coming back here to challenge myself to go further in the tournament,” said Sharapova, who can reclaim the world number one spot if she gets to the title match.
“I won two tournaments coming into Paris in Stuttgart and Rome and they gave me a lot of confidence. But every event is different. I am just happy to improve and I know it’ll get tougher from here.”
Kanepi was broken seven times in the match and admitted that Sharapova had too much firepower for her.
“She attacked all the time, I didn’t have any time to hit my shots and I just couldn’t get any rhythm out there. I was also very nervous and I am just sorry I didn’t get to spend more time on the court,” she said.
“Maria is playing really well, she can win the tournament.”
On another chilly, gloomy day in the French capital, Sharapova and Kanepi, who made the quarter-finals in 2008, exchanged breaks in the first two games before the Russian picked up two more in the third and seventh games.
Kanepi, the 23rd seed, saved two set points in the eighth game, but was powerless on the third when Sharapova unleashed a fierce serve down the middle which the Estonian could only deflect into the stands.
The start of the second set was just as untidy as the first with the world number two giving up a break to slip 2-0 down on a fourth double fault and then retrieving it immediately in the next to trail 2-1.
Kanepi, who put out former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the third round, was quickly another break down while a Sharapova hold to love gave the Russian a 4-2 lead.
She squandered the opportunity to serve out the match in the eighth game when she was broken to love, but it was a brief respite for the 26-year-old Estonian who ballooned a forehand wide to hand Sharapova the tie in the next.
Fourth-seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic powered her way through with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.
“Every point that we played was really tough,” Kvitova said in a courtside interview after the match.
“I knew that I had to change my game.”
“It wasn’t easy and I’m really happy that my serve helped me and I played my aggressive game again,” added the left-handed Czech, who sent down five aces in the match.