Sharapova becomes favourite

  • Last Updated: May 28 2014, 20:45 BST

A review of the rest of the women's singles action at the French Open on Wednesday, including a win for Maria Sharapova.

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates victory on Wednesday
Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates victory on Wednesday

Maria Sharapova assumed the mantle of French Open favourite and moved into the third round with victory over Tsvetana Pironkova.

Serena Williams' shock exit earlier on Wednesday has opened the door for Sharapova, who had been due to face a player she has not beaten for 10 years in the quarter-finals.

Although Sharapova is only the seventh seed, she has been the strongest player besides Williams on clay over the last three years, winning the Roland Garros title in 2012 and losing to Williams in the final last year.

She found the going tough in cold and damp conditions against Pironkova but ground out a 7-5 6-2 victory.

Pironkova, who is much better known for her grass-court exploits, broke the Sharapova serve in the opening game and held onto her lead until 4-2.

But Sharapova began to exert more and more pressure and forced a first set point in the 10th game only to net a backhand.

Two more quickly arrived, though, and, after missing a backhand on the first, she profited from a large slice of luck when another backhand hit the top of the net and dropped over.

The second set was much more comfortable for Sharapova, who won the final four games, shrugging off a time violation in the penultimate one.

Earlier, a miserable day for the Williams sisters started when Venus suffered a shock defeat to Slovakian teenager Anna Schmiedlova.

The 33-year-old had looked good in beating an even younger player, 17-year-old Belinda Bencic, in round one, and started in the same vein again on Philippe Chatrier.

But Schmiedlova, who lost to Heather Watson in the final of the Prague Open last weekend, showed excellent composure and impressive form to turn things around.

She wobbled a little at the end, missing two match points on Venus' serve, but the American could not take her chance to level at 5-5 and Schmiedlova clinched an emotional 2-6 6-3 6-4 victory.

Venus, who continues to struggle with the auto-immune condition Sjogren's syndrome, has made it past the second round at a grand slam only once in the past three seasons.

Later in the day, Serena was victim of the biggest shock of the tournament so far when she lost to Garvine Muguruza - read a full report of that game here.

Eighteen-year-old wild card Taylor Townsend showed what an exciting talent she is by upsetting 20th seed and leading Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-4 4-6 6-4.

In her first grand slam tournament, it was not surprising that Townsend wobbled, but she put behind her the blow of losing 4-1 and 5-1 leads in the last two sets to clinch victory.

Townsend had not even been aware Serena had lost, the shock evident as she said: "I thought she won. I saw 2 and 2. I was like, 'Oh, that was fast'.

"I'm just happy that I was able to pull it out. The fact I followed Federer just freaked me out last night.

"As a professional athlete and a young athlete, these are the times that I have been wishing would come, and I'm just really happy I took advantage of my opportunity."

Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat the rain and the darkness to defeat Karolina Pliskova 6-3 6-4 while there were also wins for Angelique Kerber, Dominika Cibulkova, Eugenie Bouchard, Carla Suarez Navarro, Sam Stosur and Daniela Hantuchova.

But Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki had to pull out after hurting her wrist in a fall early on against Mona Barthel.

Bouchard next meets Swede Johanna Larsson, who upset 12th seed Flavia Pennetta 5-7 6-4 6-2.