Sharapova battles on
Russian overcomes loss of first set to reach last 16
Last Updated: 29/05/09 9:57pm
Sharapova: Great fightback
Maria Sharapova hit back from losing a 6-1 set for a second successive match as she battled her way into the fourth round of the French Open.
The former world number one continued her resurrection with a 1-6 6-3 6-4 victory over Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, having played just one tournament since undergoing shoulder surgery 10 months ago.
The 22-year-old, who knocked out compatriot and 11th seed Nadia Petrova in a tense battle in the previous round, once again looked to be on her way out after a poor start that saw the world number 98 dominate the first set in 37 minutes.
However, the Russian claimed a morale-boosting break of serve in the fourth game of the second set and although Shvedova broke back immediately, Sharapova was back in front with another break of serve to lead 5-3.
From that point, the 102nd-ranked Sharapova held the upper hand, successfully serving out to level the match before breaking decisively in the seventh game of the final set.
Sharapova has endured a tempestuous relationship with the Roland Garros crowd in the past - she was booed off after being knocked out in 2007 and 2008.
But she said she was enjoying playing the role of the underdog after seeing her ranking slide during her enforced absence.
"You're ranked outside the top 100, so people like you," she quipped. "When you're number one in the world, for some reason they don't like you anymore. It's amazing how the society works.
"Especially here in France, I think they always love the underdog, and they always love the one that comes back from behind, or the one that's not expected to win. I'm probably that person,"
She will now take on another player returning from injury in Li Na of China for a place in the last eight.