Sharapova, attempting career Grand Slam, reaches French Open semifinals

Maria Sharapova has won the Australian and US Open championships, along with Wimbledon. But the Russian has never won on the red clay of France.

By , Associated Press

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    Maria Sharapova of Russia returns the ball to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia during their quarter-final match at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris June 6.
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Whether she's enjoying a cafe lunch, shopping on the Champs-Élysées or notching another victory on the soft red clay, Maria Sharapova sure enjoys these trips to the French Open.

"What girl doesn't love Paris?" she said.

Two more wins and she'll love it even more.

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Sharapova moved another step closer to filling in the last piece of the career Grand Slam, defeating Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros.

Second-seeded Sharapova rolled through her 23rd-seeded opponent in 74 minutes, a much different scene than the three-set win over Klara Zakopalova in the fourth round that took more than three hours.

"I'm happy with the way I improved in this match," Sharapova said.

Her next opponent will be fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion who ended 142nd-ranked qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova's upset-filled run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory. Sharapova leads their all-time series 3-2, including a win on clay earlier this year in Stuttgart.

Later Wednesday, in the men's quarterfinals, No. 2 Rafael Nadal played No. 12 Nicolas Almagro and No. 4 Andy Murray faced No. 6 David Ferrer.

In the women's draw, Kvitova reached the semifinals for the third time over the past four Grand Slams.

Sharapova, meanwhile, made the semifinals at Roland Garros for the third time. She lost at that stage last year and in 2007.

"I love coming back here, love challenging myself to get further every year and I hope this is this year," she said.

If she wins the tournament, she'll add the French Open title to her championships at Wimbledon in 2004, the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. If she makes the final, she is projected to move to No. 1 in the rankings.

Either way, Sharapova will always have a soft spot in her heart for Paris — a city where she figures she could easily fit in.

"Who wouldn't want that lifestyle? It's great to me. I could eat at L'Avenue every single day, have the escargot and the little strawberries they have for dessert, gain like 20 pounds," she said. "But that's all right. They walk everywhere and they bike. That would help."

Sharapova is 15-1 on clay this season with two championships, in Stuttgart and Rome. Sliding around on the saturated clay in Paris, she looked very comfortable against Kanepi, who made her fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal but never found her groove in this matchup.

"It was tough to get any rhythm today because balls were flying so hard from her side," Kanepi said. "It's unfortunate that I didn't stay that long on the court. I enjoyed being there."

Shvedova came into Wednesday having already won the seven matches it takes to earn the title at Roland Garros. But three of hers came during qualifying. She was trying to become the first French Open qualifier to reach the semifinals and after breaking Kvitova twice to capture the first set, it looked doable.

But Kvitova turned more aggressive in the second and third sets, hitting 20 winners from the baseline to only nine for Svedova, and that helped turn the match.

"It wasn't easy," said Kvitova, who finished with five aces. "My serve helped me and I played my aggressive game."

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