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Sharapova in positive mood

Maria Sharapova hopes her early defeat in Rome can be a blessing in disguise as she prepares to begin her French Open campaign.

The Russian's clay-court game has undergone a transformation in recent years with the red stuff now witnessing some of Sharapova's best results.

She completed her career Grand Slam in 2012 by winning the title at Roland Garros and reached the final again last year before losing to Serena Williams.

Sharapova began her clay-court campaign with titles in Stuttgart and Madrid this year but then fell to Ana Ivanovic in the third round in Rome.

Remarkably, it was the first match she had lost on clay to a player other than Williams since a semi-final defeat by eventual champion Li Na at the French Open in 2011.

Sharapova said: "I think time will ultimately tell.

"I think it gave me a few extra days maybe to rest instead of trying to hurry up and come here and trying to get on the courts as soon you can and get as many hours on the big courts as you might get before everybody else comes.

"So in a way it's been great to have that. Of course I would have loved to have done well in Rome, as well.

"I had great preparation. I had two great tournaments and had really tough matches, easier matches.

"I think a lot has been thrown at me in the last few weeks in all the matches I have played, and I think that's great for coming into a big tournament like this."

Sharapova is only seeded seventh this year having slipped down the rankings following the shoulder injury that brought a premature end to her 2013 season.

That opened up the possibility of an unkind draw and so it proved as she was placed in the same quarter as top seed Williams.

For all of Sharapova's improvement on clay, Williams has proved an insurmountable obstacle - as she has on every other surface.

The American has won their last 15 meetings dating back to 2004, and this year's matches brought straight-sets wins for Williams in Brisbane and Miami.

Sharapova, one of sport's great competitors, will continue to search for a way to end the hoodoo and to add to her tally of tennis' greatest prizes.

She said: "I want to achieve more and I want to win more grand slams and I want to get back to number one.

"I think when you have that feeling of being there before and holding those trophies, they are so memorable and you spend so many hours training to feel that excitement, to feel that energy, that adrenaline for those moments of match-point victories.

"And that's why I play, because that's what I've known for my whole life. And my body still allows me to do that.

"I love the thrill of it. I don't think there is anything else that would give me that much satisfaction in what I do."

Sharapova will begin her campaign on Monday but Williams is in action on Sunday, taking on Frenchwoman and good friend Alize Lim.

Williams could meet her sister in the third round but Venus has a very tough opener against 17-year-old Swiss Belinda Bencic, while third seed Agnieszka Radwanska opens proceedings on Court Philippe Chatrier against China's Zhang Shuai.