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Maria Sharapova can sense Paris may belong to her

By Eleanor Crooks

Maria Sharapova will face Li Na in the semi-finals of the French Open after the Australian Open finalist yesterday put out title favourite Victoria Azarenka.

Li, who lost to Kim Clijsters in the final in Melbourne, was just too consistent for the fourth seed, winning 7-5 6-2 to reach the last four at Roland Garros for the first time.

The Chinese player will be the underdog against Sharapova, though, after she blasted her way past rising star Andrea Petkovic 6-0 6-3 on Court Philippe Chatrier to gain revenge for a fourth-round defeat at the Australian Open in January.

The seventh seed is looking to complete her set of grand slam titles after winning Wimbledon (2004), the US Open (2006) and the Australian Open (2008), and her performance yesterday suggested she will take some stopping.

"Even though the first set was 6-0 we played it for quite a bit of time because of those long games," said Sharapova.

"Those important points in the first set. I think that was the difference in the beginning because there were a lot of games that could have gone either way."

Sharapova is happy to be in semifinal. "It's really exciting to be back in the semis here, I put a lot of work in to be in this stage of the Grand Slams. I'm really happy that it's here."

Sharapova said she was always confident she would get back to this stage in a major.

"There's no doubt there's tough moments. I don't think without tough moments the good ones would feel so good.

"I have certainly put in a lot of work, and I was never hesitant. I always tried to push myself as much as I could.

" I have a really good team of people around me that support me and that have helped me in the tough moments and tough decisions that I've had to make in my career."

Sharapova who once dubbed her movement on clay as "a cow on ice," spoke about her improvement: "Well, there's no doubt that I've improved on this surface. There's no doubt that as the years went on I felt better and better. Towards the end of the clay season for me, I would always feel like, Oh, I'm feeling good. I want to actually play more tournaments."

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