sport

Sharapova becomes new favourite

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.

Stosur is playing with stitches in her leg after an accident in the gym but has breezed through both her matches so far.

She and Sharapova have met 15 times before, with the Russian winning 13, including on clay in Madrid three weeks ago.