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Maria Sharapova Tops Jelena Jankovic At French Open, Advances To Semifinals

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PARIS -- Maria Sharapova shrugged off losing the first six games and swept the last four to reach the French Open semifinals.

The defending champion overcame a miserable start in the quarterfinals Wednesday to beat Jelena Jankovic, 0-6, 6-4, 6-3.

It was the first victory of Sharapova's career after losing an opening set 6-0. Her opponent Friday will be two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who reached her first Roland Garros semifinal by beating Maria Kirilenko 7-6 (3), 6-2.

The No. 2-seeded Sharapova earned her first French Open title a year ago to complete a career Grand Slam. She has won 12 matches in a row at Roland Garros, where her 42-9 record is the best among active women.

"Obviously it only gets tougher from here," Sharapova said, "but I'm really happy I'm at this stage again."

The warmest weather of the tournament greeted the quarterfinalists, and Jankovic quickly had Sharapova sweating. In the first set the Russian repeatedly missed the lines by narrow margins or clipped the net cord, and the match was 35 minutes old before she won a game - and only then because Jankovic double-faulted on break point.

Jankovic won 27 points in the first set, 20 on unforced errors by her opponent.

"I still felt like I was in the match," Sharapova said. "And I was."

She then began to find her range while hitting even harder than before. After she finally erased the deficit, Sharapova earned the first break of the final set to take her first lead at 4-3.

Toward the end the rallies became longer, and Sharapova won the majority, often by hitting shots at improbable angles. She struck one winner so violently her necklace flew into her face.

When Jankovic's final shot sailed wide, Sharapova responded with a slack-jawed smile, as though she couldn't quite believe her comeback. She had dropped a first set 6-0 five other times in her career - and went on to lose each match.

Most of her results this year have been less stressful. She's 35-4, with all but four of those matches decided in straight sets.

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