China’s defending champion Li Na (30) crashed out of the French Open on Monday, losing 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 to Kazakh qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova in the fourth round and dashing Asia’s hopes of a second Grand Slam title.
World No 7 Li and a superstar in her homeland, was attempting to be the first French Open women’s champion to successfully defend the title since Justine Henin in 2007. “I just lost one match, so don’t try to push me down,” she told journalists in a petulant post-match interview. I will take some days off to totally forget tennis, then try to come back next week,” she said. “I need some time to recover, I’m not a machine.”
World number seven Li was attempting to be the first French Open women's champion to successfully defend the title since Justine Henin in 2007.
But after a confident start on Suzanne Lenglen court, the 30-year-old endured a spectacular meltdown in the second set and never recovered, notching 41 errors and ending up being broken seven times by her 24-year-old opponent.
"I lost one match so don't try to put me down," Li, who hasn't won a title since her Paris victory, snapped at a tense post-match news conference.
"This is tennis. I will try to find the reason why I lost."
Shvedova, who was also a quarter-finalist in 2010, had to come through qualifying after an injury-hit 2011 saw her ranking plummet at one stage to 206.
Shvedova, the World No 142, will now face either fourth-seeded Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or unseeded American Varvara Lepchenko for a place in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova struggled into the quarters, defeating Czech Klara Zakopalova 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in an error-scarred clash which featured 21 breaks of serve.
The Russian second seed, seeking a Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam, goes on to face either Estonian 23rd seed Kaia Kanepi or Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands for a place in the semi-finals.
But she will be hoping for an improvement in conditions in Wednesday's quarter-final after a stiff wind and bitter cold, which saw temperatures dip to a chilly 14 degrees, played havoc with her game, temper and movement.
The statistics of Monday's match on Philippe Chatrier court told a grim tale. Sharapova finished with 53 unforced errors to her opponent's 48 and served up 12 double faults against seven. With serve constantly under siege, Sharapova carved out a massive 31 break points in total, converting 12.
Sharapova, the favourite for the title following the exits of top seed Victoria Azarenka, Li and Serena Williams, rarely settled in the three hour 11 minute encounter.
Twice she argued with umpire Julie Kjendlie while also taking an embarrassing, bottom-first tumble on to the damp red clay midway during the ninth game of the second set.
In a neat snapshot of the match, Sharapova double-faulted on match point in the seventh game of the final set; Zakopalova suffered a similar lapse in the next game to hand her opponent victory.