Sharapova back in semifinals

Maria Sharapova is in a semifinal at a Grand Slam for the first time in more than three years.

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Maria Sharapova is in a semifinal at a Grand Slam for the first time in more than three years.

PARIS — Everything came so quickly for Maria Sharapova at the start of her career. Wimbledon champion at age 17. Ranked No. 1 at 18. Second major title at 19, third at 20.

Surgery on her right shoulder in October 2008 put a halt to all of that. Getting her game back in order required patience. And with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over 15th-seeded Andrea Petkovic on Wednesday, Sharapova reached the French Open semifinals, the first time she has made it that far at any Grand Slam tournament in more than three years.

"There's no doubt there's tough moments. I don't think without tough moments the good ones would feel so good," the seventh-seeded Sharapova said. "I have certainly put in a lot of work, and I was never hesitant. I always tried to push myself as much as I could."

A championship at Roland Garros would make Sharapova the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam.

Today she faces No. 6 Li Na, who advanced by beating No. 4 Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-2. Li was runnerup in January at the Australian Open.

Before now, Li's best performance in Paris was getting to the fourth round in 2009. She lost to Sharapova, who has won five of their seven career meetings.

But Li, who is from China, was steady against Azarenka, compiling nearly twice as many winners, 21-11.

Playing like he's still upset about his only loss at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal defeated Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) to reach the semifinals for the sixth time.

The five-time champ, who lost to Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 but beat him in last year's final, is 43-1 at the claycourt Grand Slam and two wins away from equaling Bjorn Borg's record of six French Open titles.

"I am through. I'm in the semifinals, so that's the thing," Nadal said. "I have to be playing better and better every day if I want to have chances to win the final and that's what I'm going to try."

Nadal faces fourth-seeded Andy Murray, who reached the semis for the first time. He beat Juan Ignacio Chela 7-6 (7-2), 7-5, 6-2. Murray's win ensured that the top four seeded players made the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament for only the 12th time in the Open era.

Wesley Chapel residents Bob and Mike Bryan finished off a 6-7 (7-2), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) win over Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi to reach the doubles semifinals.

>>fast facts

French Open

When/where: Through Sunday; Roland Garros, Paris

Today's women's semifinals: No. 6 Li Na vs. No. 7 Maria Sharapova; No. 5 Francesca Schiavone vs. No. 11 Marion Bartoli

TV: 8 a.m., ESPN2, ESPND; 5 a.m. Thursday, Tennis

Sharapova back in semifinals 06/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 11:44pm]

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