Maria Sharapova into semifinals
PARIS -- Whether she's enjoying a cafe lunch, shopping on the Champs-Elysees 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.
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 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 3 hours.
"I'm happy with the way I improved in this match," Sharapova said.
Sharapova leads their all-time series 3-2. Kvitova beat Sharapova in last year's Wimbledon final, while Sharapova won the most recent match, on clay this year in Stuttgart.
Kvitova reached the semifinals for the third time over the past four Grand Slams.
Meanwhile, Sharapova 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."
In Thursday's other semifinal, No. 6 Samantha Stosur will face No. 21 Sara Errani. The Italian, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal, has had more success as a doubles player before excelling in singles this week. She and her doubles partner, Roberta Vinci, won their semifinal match Wednesday and will play for the title.
Her quest to play in the singles final goes through Stosur, the U.S. Open champion whom Errani hasn't beaten in five tries. The last was a 6-3, 7-5 loss on clay in Rome.
"She's an amazing player, of course," Errani said. "She's very strong. If I'm here, it's because I'm playing good, so I want just to think about that and think to fight and make my best."
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 comfortable against Kanepi, who made her fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal but never found her groove in this matchup.
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"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 the contest Wednesday having won the seven matches it takes to earn the title at Roland Garros. But three of those wins came during qualifying. She was trying to become the first French Open qualifier to reach the semifinals. 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 Shvedova.
"She started well and I was very nervous from the beginning," Kvitova said. "The first set I did easy mistakes. Then I knew that I had to change my game and I have to be the aggressive one and going for the points."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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