In a tournament that has been ruled by upsets, seventh-seeded Maria Sharapova emphatically proved to be the French Open favorite Friday by whitewashing Paula Ormaechea 6-0, 6-0 in the third round at Roland Garros.
According to Chris Skelton of Tennis View Magazine, this was the fifth time that Sharapova won without dropping a game at a Grand Slam:
Ormaechea is no stranger to clay as a native of Argentina, but it was Sharapova who looked as though she had been playing on the red stuff her entire life.
Even with all of the pressure now on Sharapova's shoulders to run through a weakened French Open draw in Paris, she didn't falter one bit against Ormaechea.
With the top three seeds in the women's draw all out of the picture, Sharapova is now the clear favorite to win her second career French Open title. Following her second-round win over Tsvetana Pironkova, Sharapova acknowledged that blocking out what happens to other top players is paramount, per Dan Imhoff of RolandGarros.com.
I think you always have to follow your path and always concentrate on your work and who's ahead of you and not get worried about what's going on. Obviously when you go on court you're aware of a lot of the upsets, not just in the women but in the men, as well. So it's great to get a win in that type of atmosphere.
After Roger Federer was pushed to four sets by Dmitry Tursunov on Court Philippe Chatrier, Sharapova's match got started a bit later than initially expected. Unfortunately, that allowed for inclement weather to roll in.
Just minutes after the match began, it started to rain, as seen in this photo courtesy of BBC's Piers Newbery:
After about a 30-minute delay, however, Sharapova and Ormaechea returned to the court, according to Live Tennis:
Delays can often negatively impact players since their routines are interrupted, but that certainly wasn't the case with Sharapova. In fact, the Russian star played a nearly flawless first set as Ormaechea was left looking for answers.
Sharapova has arguably developed into the pre-eminent clay-court player on the women's tour, and Ormaechea found that out firsthand as Sharapova had her way with the Argentine, per Victoria Chiesa of Tennis View Magazine:
The favored No. 7 seed blasted an impressive 16 winners in the opening set to just one for Ormaechea. Sharapova also excelled on serve, as she won 79 percent of her first-serve points. While Ormaechea was able to win more than half of the points in which she had a successful first serve, she failed to win a single point on her second serve.
Ormaechea couldn't muster a single game as Sharapova induced the dreaded bagel in just a half hour of play, according to BBC Sport's Gigi Salmon:
Although Ormaechea had a clean slate to work with in the second set, absolutely nothing changed. In fact, Sharapova was even better, as she remarkably won 24 of the 27 points played.
That resulted in a blowout that took Sharapova less than an hour, save for the rain delay:
Although Ormaechea never even stood a chance in this match, Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times accurately mentioned that she was playing on short rest:
Sharapova exploited that in a major way and fired a warning shot to every woman remaining in the tournament.
Many believed that an Australian Open rematch between Sharapova and Dominika Cibulkova would occur in the fourth round, but Cibulkova was knocked off by 19th-seeded Samantha Stosur. Although Stosur reached the French Open final in 2010, she could be in over her head.
As pointed out by Hannah Wilks of Live Tennis, Stosur has not had much success against Sharapova over the years:
In fact, Stosur is just 2-9 against Sharapova, and she has never beaten her on clay.
Assuming Sharapova can clear that hurdle, the remainder of the draw looks quite favorable. A quarterfinal clash with Serena Williams was initially viewed as a foregone conclusion, but it no longer stands in Maria's way after Williams crashed out in the second round.
She also won't have to deal with No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, who bowed out in the third round. That means Sharapova's biggest challenge en route to the final may be either No. 8 Angelique Kerber or No. 18 Eugenie Bouchard.
Neither are pushovers, but Sharapova would be heavily favored in either match. Her potential final opponent is anyone's guess, with Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic and Sara Errani among the top candidates.
Sharapova has everything working in her favor with her biggest challengers dropping like flies around her. She also has all the confidence in the world with just one loss on clay this year, so there is absolutely no reason to bet against Sharapova capturing her fourth career Grand Slam title.
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