Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Wizard of Woz: Dane shreds Sharapova at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK -- Grit was not going to be enough to get Maria Sharapova through this one.

Not with nine double-faults, including three in a row.

Not with a total of 36 unforced errors.

And certainly not with No. 1-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark across the net Monday in the fourth round of the U.S. Open, doing "what she does best," as Sharapova herself put it: getting to nearly every ball and hammering it back, stretching points on and on and on until her opponent misses the mark.

It added up to a 6-3, 6-4 victory for 2009 U.S. Open runner-up Wozniacki over Sharapova, who has failed to make it even as far as the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows since winning the 2006 title.

"I felt like I was playing well out there," Wozniacki said, then made sure everyone understood a key concept by adding, "I made her do those errors."

Indeed, she did. Rare is the opponent who can trade powerful baseline groundstrokes with three-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova and figure out a way to put her on the defensive, but that's exactly what Wozniacki managed to do as early evening shadows crept across the blue court in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"When she had the opportunity to step in," the 14th-seeded Sharapova said, her voice a barely audible monotone, "she took it and went for her shots."

It's the first victory for Wozniacki in three career meetings against Sharapova, but they hadn't met since 2008. In that time, the 20-year-old Wozniacki has grown as a player and built a huge supply of confidence, thanks to her Grand Slam final debut in New York and, most recently, her 18-1 record since Wimbledon.

"I've improved a lot, not only physically, but also I believe in myself more. I believe I can do it," said Wozniacki, who is ranked No. 2 but received the top seeding at the U.S. Open because No. 1 Serena Williams withdrew. "Also, I think I can mix up my game a little bit more."

Wozniacki has lost only 10 games so far; no one has conceded fewer en route to the U.S. Open quarter-finals since 1999. But here is what might be the most remarkable statistic of all: After making only 10 unforced errors against Sharapova, Wozniacki has made 40 in four matches, and her opponents have made 123.

"Obviously," Sharapova said, "she's at the top of her game."

Wozniacki carries a 12-match winning streak into her quarter-final against 45th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova, who eliminated 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (4).

The five-foot-three Cibulkova, a semifinalist at the 2009 French Open, was treated for a left leg problem between sets but still managed to scurry around, covering ground, to improve to 2-8 against top-15 players this season -- with both victories against the 11th-seeded Kuznetsova, who double-faulted 10 times Monday.

The other quarter-final on that side of the draw will be No. 31 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia against No. 7 Vera Zvonareva, who overwhelmed 38th-ranked Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-1, 6-2 Monday night.

Zvonareva, the runner-up at Wimbledon in July, reached the U.S. Open quarter-finals for the first time.

Earlier, Kanepi did the same by coming back to defeat 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 0-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1.

Third-seeded Novak Djokovic might have said the same about his own play Monday, when he reached the men's quarter-finals at the U.S. Open for the fourth consecutive year by outclassing No. 19 Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. Fish's exit leaves one American man in the tournament, No. 20 Sam Querrey, who is in fourth-round action Tuesday against No. 25 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.

Serbia's Djokovic, the 2007 U.S. Open runner-up and 2008 Australian Open champion, next faces No. 17 Gael Monfils, a 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 winner over Richard Gasquet in an all-French matchup.

Another quarter-final will pit No. 5 Robin Soderling, a two-time French Open finalist, against No. 2 Roger Federer or No. 13 Jurgen Melzer, who were scheduled to play Monday night's last match. Sweden's Soderling hit 15 aces and did not face a single break point after the first set of his 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win against No. 21 Albert Montanes of Spain.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2010 C2

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