Top seed Maria Sharapova admitted she felt like a different player in the second set of today’s third-round win over Karin Knapp, as she finally found some form at this year’s French Open.
The Russian was taken to three sets in both of her opening matches, with her serve constantly misfiring and a lot of her groundstrokes failing to find their target.
But she believed she “stepped up” against Italy’s Knapp, the 32nd seed, as she claimed a 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 victory on Philippe Chatrier court.
After a laborious first set that lasted 81 minutes, the new world number one found her groove and crushed Knapp to set up a fourth-round clash with compatriot Dinara Safina.
“It was like my twin sister has been here the last few days, and then Maria actually made her flight and made it for the second set,” said Sharapova, who needs the Roland Garros title to complete the Grand Slam of majors.
“I guess you just hang in there and you keep trying to do the right things. I’ve been really hesitant the last few days, not really being aggressive enough and playing my game.
“I spent a lot more time than I would have liked on court. I feel I’ve been lucky to get through the first two matches.
“But I did what I had to do and today was definitely a step up. That’s good to see.”
The three-time major winner’s serve has been under considerable scrutiny this first week in Paris, particularly after her opener against Evgeniya Rodina which she won 8-6 in the third set.
But that department of her game improved against Knapp, the 21-year-old adding: “It was a lot better. It felt more comfortable.
“I have double-faulted numerous times in my career. I want to make sure I go for the serves.”
Sharapova will next play 13th seed Safina, who was a 6-2 7-5 winner over Chinese qualifier Jie Zheng.
“Against Maria, I will really have to be aggressive all the time,” said Safina, who won a clay court tournament in Berlin in the lead-up to Roland Garros and beat Sharapova at the fourth-round stage here in 2006.
“Once you give her a chance, she will take it.”
Elsewhere in the third round, fourth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova was in ruthless mood as she disposed of fellow Russian Nadia Petrova for the loss of just three games.
Kuznetsova, the runner-up at Roland Garros in 2006, was highly impressive in her 69-minute, 6-2 6-1 victory over the 25th seed on Philippe Chatrier court.
“I thought I played really consistently,” said the 2004 US Open winner.
“I was trying not to make unforced errors in the first two or three shots. Not to rush too much.
“I definitely think I have a chance (to win the title). Why not? There are a few players who have a shot to win it and I hope one of them is me.”
Kuznetsova is scheduled to meet Sharapova in the semi-finals.
She next plays 18-year-old Victoria Azarenka, the 16th seed from Belarus who thrashed Francesca Schiavone 6-1 6-1 on Suzanne Lenglen court.
In the bottom half of the draw, third seed Jelena Jankovic quickly wrapped up her match against Dominika Cibulkova that was held over from Friday, when bad light forced play to be suspended.
The Serbian resumed a set and 4-2 ahead against the 28th seed from Slovakia, and won two of the next three games to clinch a 7-5 6-3 victory.
Jankovic, who will play Agnieszka Radwanska in the fourth round, said: “It’s hard to make a winner against her (Cibulkova) so I really had to work hard for my points.
“It’s quite hard when you stop and have to come back the next day; you have to start from the beginning. It was important for me to finish in two sets.”