ROME - Maria Sharapova finally won a quarterfinal match on clay.
The Russian teenager easily advanced to the Italian Open semifinals with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over countrywoman Elena Bovina on Friday. Sharapova failed to reach the semis in six previous clay-court tournaments.
"I'm really excited," the top-seeded Sharapova said. "I'm playing better and better as the tournament goes on, although I know it's going to be a lot tougher in my next round."
At 18, Sharapova admits she needs to keep working on her clay-court game. What better way than at the $1.3 million clay-court tuneup for the French Open, which starts May 23.
"I think having a year to work - I worked really hard physically - is paying off," she said. "I feel a lot stronger on the clay, like I can play more matches in a row, and still feel good physically."
She next faces eighth-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, who cruised past Evgenia Linetskaya 6-1, 6-0.
In the other half of the draw, defending champion Amelie Mauresmo advanced with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over four-time Italian Open winner Conchita Martinez.
Mauresmo will next meet sixth-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia, who beat unseeded Francesca Schiavone of Italy 7-5, 7-6 (4). Mauresmo beat Zvonareva in the semifinals en route to her title here last year.
Sharapova can move past Lindsay Davenport for the No. 1 world ranking if she wins this tournament. In her match Friday, Sharapova produced 21 winners to 11 for the ninth-seeded Bovina. Sharapova hasn't dropped a set in her first three matches.
The second-seeded Mauresmo won the first set in just 28 minutes. In the second, she jumped out to a 4-0 lead, then dropped two games before closing out the contest on her first match point.
"I'm much more satisfied with today's match," Mauresmo said. "In the beginning, she had some opportunities and it was important that I played my game and didn't let her play."
Mauresmo has reached the final of this clay-court tournament the last four years. The Frenchwoman also beat Martinez in the third round here last year.
"I've always played well here. It's unbelievable to do so well at a tournament," Mauresmo said.
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