Dazzling Sharapova surges into Paris semi-finals

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Fashion-conscious Maria Sharapova produced another dazzling performance in her beloved Paris to reach the French Open semi-finals with a crushing 6-0 6-3 win over German Andrea Petkovic on Wednesday.

The Russian seventh seed, who will take on Chinese sixth seed Li Na for a place in Saturday's final, needs only to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup to complete a career grand slam.

"It's really exciting to be back in the semis here, in general. I put a lot of work in to be in this stage of the grand slams," Sharapova, who made it to the last four at Roland Garros in 2007, told a news conference.

"I'm really happy that it's here. I'm going to have a chance to go further."

Sharapova once again strode on to court with a fancy handbag and she unleashed a devastating display of attacking tennis to leave her opponent flat-footed.

Petkovic did go 40-0 up in the first game but she was brought down to earth in ruthless fashion.

Sharapova, who had not made it into a grand slam semi-final since the 2008 Australian Open, started to spray the court with forehand winners and sealed the opening set in 32 minutes.

Petkovic, who beat Sharapova in the Australian Open fourth round this year, took a bathroom break and came back fighting for her serve, but she dropped it in a 13-minute opening game.

DROP SHOTS

The German finally stemmed the flow of Sharapova winners in the ninth game and broke to level at 2-2 as she mixed up her game with drop shots.

A trade of service breaks made it 3-3 but Sharapova raised her game again to push Petkovic far behind her baseline and the German eventually succumbed when she netted a routine forehand on the second match point.

"I think she played long. There were very strong balls, but she plays very long balls, as well, and you can't attack on her balls," said Petkovic.

Sharapova, who four years ago described herself as a 'cow on ice' on clay, has now improved on the slowest surface.

"There's no doubt that I've improved on this surface. There's no doubt that I felt, as the years went on, better and better," she said.

"Toward the end of the clay season for me, I would always feel like, Oh, I'm feeling good."

Sharapova, who won the Rome tournament before arriving in Paris, is on a 10-0 streak on clay.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)