PARIS (AP) — A day before Serena Williams puts her 28-match winning streak on the line at the French Open, the three other U.S. women left in field tried to join her in the quarterfinals.
Sloane Stephens, Jamie Hampton and Bethanie Mattek-Sands all lost in straight sets.
The 17th-seeded Stephens had the toughest task of that American trio on Monday, facing defending champion Maria Sharapova, who took control midway through the first set en route to a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
“There’s a lot of room for a few things to improve, and I think she will. I think she has a big game. She has big strokes; pretty good serve. Maybe not as consistent as she would like at this point, but … she has a lot of time to develop it,” said Sharapova, who completed a career Grand Slam by winning the 2012 title in Paris.
“This is a really important time in her career,” Sharapova said about the 20-year-old Stephens. “If she’s in the right hands at the right time, I’m sure she’s going to have a great career.”
Next for Sharapova is a match against No. 18 Jelena Jankovic, who needed barely an hour to eliminate the 54th-ranked Hampton 6-0, 6-2.
“Today was just a tough day. Really was. I really don’t know what else to say,” said the 23-year-old Hampton, who surprised 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Saturday to earn a debut appearance in the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament. “Just everything that was hitting my racket was going out today, unfortunately. Everyone has those days. Got to learn to get through them.”
Her match against Jankovic, the 2008 U.S. Open runner-up, was the last of the day and was played in a nearly empty Court Suzanne Lenglen, following a five-set men’s match.
“That match lasted, like, five hours. I had coffee, as well,” Jankovic said about waiting around for her turn. “I was trying to stay awake.”
She and Sharapova go way back: Both trained at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida as kids.
The 67th-ranked Mattek-Sands, who beat 2011 French Open champion Li Na in the second round, got off to a 4-1 start against 12th-seeded Maria Kirilenko before faltering and losing 7-5, 6-4. Kirilenko reached her first French Open quarterfinal in her 10th try.
Mattek-Sands’ lead started slipping away, but she still was ahead 5-4 when she asked for medical attention. From there, Kirilenko won four games in a row. Kirilenko, who is engaged to two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, also was visited by a trainer, getting a massage on her right shoulder in the second set.
“I made a couple of mistakes here and there,” Mattek-Sands said, “and in tennis, it can change pretty quickly.”
Kirilenko’s opponent Wednesday will be two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, whose fourth-round match was tied at 3-all before she took the next nine games to beat 2010 French Open title winner Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-0.
Azarenka, 26-2 this season, will now try to reach her first semifinal at Roland Garros; she’s been at least that far at the three other major tournaments.
Williams, who owns 15 Grand Slam titles, plays 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on Tuesday, when the other women’s quarterfinal is No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska against No. 5 Sara Errani, last year’s runner-up in Paris to Sharapova.
So far this year, the second-seeded Sharapova has won all eight sets she’s played at Roland Garros. Against Stephens, Sharapova accumulated 12 break points, converting four.
“Unfortunate I had to play her,” said Stephens, who is 0-3 against Sharapova and 1-8 against women ranked in the top five.
Stephens lost in the French Open’s fourth round for the second year in a row. Last time, at 19, she was the first U.S. teenager to make it that far in Paris since Williams did it in 2001.
It was Williams who Stephens beat to get to her first major semifinal, at the Australian Open this January.
“I’ve always done well in Slams, so it’s not that big of a deal, I don’t think, anymore,” Stephens said. “Now I’m seeded and that’s how I should be doing.”
During an on-court interview after Monday’s match, Sharapova, who’s 26, was asked about facing a member of her sport’s “younger generation.”
“I still like to consider myself young,” Sharapova said with a smile. “Maybe not the ‘young generation,’ but somewhere in the middle.”
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