PARIS: Maria Sharapova moved a step closer to winning a second French Open crown on Friday (Saturday in Manila) on a day when Croatia’s Ajla Tomljanovic made history by upsetting third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round.
The Pole’s 6-4, 6-4 defeat meant that the tournament’s top three seeds had all been ousted inside six days, with top seed and defending champion Serena Williams losing in the second round and second seed Li Na departing in the first.
It was the first Grand Slam in the Open era where the top three women seeds all failed to make the last 16.
Playing later in the day, seventh seed Sharapova dodged the debris to inflict a 6-0, 6-0 thrashing on hapless Paula Ormaechea of Argentina.
Asked if she saw herself now as the favorite win the tournament, The Russian replied: “Its tough to talk about favourites, but there is no reason why I shouln’t be the favourite — I have won four Grand Slams.”
Ranked 72nd in the world, 21-year-old Tomljanovic will play Spanish 14th seed Carla Suarez Navarro, who ended the dream run of 18-year-old American wildcard Taylor Townsend 6-2, 6-2, with a quarter-final place at stake.
Fourth seed Simona Halep of Romania is the top seeded player left in the draw, having reached the third round on Thursday.
“After seeing the first two seeds go out you kinda feel like — hey I can do that too. I grew up with these girls that were doing that,” the Florida-based Tomljanovic said.
“I went out out there and I really felt that I could win. It showed and that was how I won.
“I have a fourth round next and obviously happy, but I do not want to get too happy about it either.”
Tomljanovic ended 2013 ranked 78th in the world, improving from 495th – the biggest ranking improvement by any player in the top 100.
This year she lost in the third round at the Australian Open but more recently failed to qualify for the main draw at Madrid and Rome in the buildup to Roland Garros.
For Radwanska it was the first time she had failed to make it past the third round at a Grand Slam event since the 2012 French Open.
Last year she was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon, a quarter-finalist at the Australian and French Opens and made the fourth round at the US Open.
Watched by Croatian 1997 French Open winner Iva Majoli, Tomljanovic quickly took control of a match played in front of a sparse centre court crowd.
She jumped out into a 5-1 before a shell-shocked Radwanska managed to break serve and get back to 5-4.
The Croatian made no mistake on serve in the following game though and an early break in the second set sent her on the way to the biggest win of her career.
While newcomer Tomljanovic was making the headlines on centre court, veteran Australian Samantha Stosur was stealthily moving through the draw out on the Suzanne Lenglen court.
The 19th seed, a finalist at Roland Garros in 2010, pulled off an impressive 6-4, 6-4 win over Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia to set up a last 16 meeting with Sharapova.
Stosur, the 2011 US Open champion, had too much firepower for the dimunitive Cibulkova, taking an early lead in the first set and staying ahead after that.
The Australian lost to Sharapova in the third round of the Madrid Masters earlier this month, having also defeated Cibulkova in the previous round.
“I love playing here and have had some great moments and some of the best matches in my career, so hopefully I can still have a few more matches this year,” she said.
Also flying the flag for Spain was Garbine Muguruza, who defeated Serena Williams in straight sets in the second round.
Unseeded Muguruza scored a 6-2, 6-4 win over Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia, who defeated Serena’s big sister Venus in the second round.
In later matches, eighth-seeded German Angelique Kerber moved past Slovak veteran Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 6-3, while fast-rising Canadian Eugenie Bouchard defeated Johanna Larsson of Sweden 7-5, 6-4.