Tennis: Defending champion Sharapova sent packing in Paris

Lucie Safarova of Czech Republilc (left) shakes hands after winning against Maria Sharapova of Russia during their fourth round match for the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France on June 1, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Lucie Safarova of Czech Republilc (left) shakes hands after winning against Maria Sharapova of Russia during their fourth round match for the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France on June 1, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

PARIS (AFP) - Defending champion Maria Sharapova was sent packing from tennis' French Open in the fourth round on Monday, losing in straight sets to Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.

Safarova, the 13th seed, won 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 to progress to her first quarter-final at Roland Garros, where she will face Garbine Muguruza after the Spaniard saw off Flavia Pennetta.

Sharapova, who also won the clay-court Grand Slam event in 2012 and was the beaten finalist in 2013, had been forced to wait until Monday morning for her clash with Safarova, which had been postponed on Sunday due to the rain in the French capital.

But on a bright Paris morning, the Russian second seed, who was looking to become the first woman to retain the title since Justine Henin in 2007, was punished for an erratic display from beginning to end.

Sharapova was broken in her second service game, and although she soon broke back, Safarova claimed the opening set in the tie-break on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Breaks were again exchanged in the second set but Sharapova found herself serving to stay in the match at 5-4 down, and while she saved one match point she could not save the second that came her opponent's way.

"I had a few small openings but I wasn't able to keep up my level. She was more consistent and aggressive, created the angles and that was the difference," said Sharapova who had been battling a heavy cold all week. "It was a tough day at the office."

The Czech had not won any of her last four meetings with Sharapova since triumphing in their first-ever clash in Madrid in 2010 and will now face Muguruza on Tuesday after the Spanish 21st seed breezed past Pennetta.

Muguruza won 6-3, 6-4 on Court Suzanne Lenglen to reach the last eight at Roland Garros for the second year in succession.

Twelve months ago, Muguruza was knocked out in three sets by Sharapova having defeated Serena Williams in the second round.

The exit of the reigning champion leaves just two of the top six seeds left going into the quarter-finals.

Top seed Williams, who is looking for a 20th Grand Slam crown at the event she won in 2002 and 2013, was due in action later on Monday against compatriot Sloane Stephens.

Czech fourth seed Petra Kvitova, last year's Wimbledon champion, was due to meet Swiss 23rd seed Timea Bacsinszky, with the winner going on to meet either Andreea Mitu of Romania or Belgium's Alison van Uytvanck.

The remaining fourth-round tie sees Italy's 17th seed Sara Errani face Julia Goerges of Germany.