Apr 262013

STUTTGART: French Open champion Maria Sharapova admitted she had dug deep to reach the quarter-finals of the Stuttgart’s WTA tournament after her three-hour marathon victory over claycourt specialist Lucie Safarova.

Sharapova, who won last year’s Stuttgart title en route to her Roland Garros victory, needed three hours, nine minutes to squeeze past her Czech opponent for a 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 second-round victory.

“I’ve had a few three-hour games in my career, so I knew I just had to keep fighting until the end,” said the Russian. “That’s when it’s the time to get the game-plan going and calm down a little bit.

“Clay is one of her favourite surfaces and I knew this was going to be a tough game, so I am glad to get through. The first match of the claycourt season is always tough, it’s nothing like practising.”

Meanwhile, second-seed China’s Li Na has admitted she has one eye on a brand new sports car, the winner’s prize here, as she prepares to face Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals.

Li breezed through her second-round match in 74 minutes to see off Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-1, 6-2 in straight sets in her first match of the claycourt season.

Kvitova made the last-eight after beating Germany’s Julia Goerges 2-6, 7-6(7/4), 6-2 in her second-round match.

“I have a lot of room in my garage for a new car and it’s a pretty nice one,” joked Li, with a brand-new Porsche parked at the side of the court, ready for the winner of tomorrow’s final to drive away.

“It’s always tough when you change surface, so I’m excited to win my first match on clay for the season.”

Nadal ousts Paire in Barcelona

Elsewhere, Rafael Nadal overcame another hurdle on his way to a possible eighth Barcelona Open title in nine years when he recovered from a poor start to beat Benoit Paire 7-6 6-2 in their delayed third-round match yesterday.

Nadal had been set to meet the 13th-seeded Frenchman on Thursday before rain washed out the day’s play.

“It wasn’t brilliant but getting the victory was the most important thing,” said Nadal. “It’s going to be a tough tournament. We are taking things step by step.”

Meanwhile, top seed and world number four David Ferrer, another Spaniard whom Nadal beat in the final in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, lost to Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov in the second round.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2013.

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