Sharpova weathers storm

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

Wind, rain, lightning and Sharapova.

All those elements were unleashed last night at the Rexall Centre, as the $2 million US Rogers Cup beat the bad weather, and the clock, to keep today's quarterfinals on schedule, with just three seeds alive.

After 90 minutes to let the tornado danger pass, then an early-match rain delay, Maria Sharapova's quest for her first title since shoulder surgery resumed in a dogged win over Russian comrade and seventh seed Vera Zvonareva, 6-2, 7-6 (3). New mom Kim Clijsters, trying to keep her own comeback on track, was trying to outlast fifth seed Jelena Jankovic in a three-set match that had not ended at press time.

TIEBREAKER

"I was glad to get it done and not play a third set with that shoulder," said Sharapova, who twice has eked by in this tourney on a two-set tiebreaker. "(Last night) was a step up for me, against someone I've had trouble against, who I usually play three sets against.

"I've had a rain delay before, but probably never for a tornado. We were around cement (in the players lounge) and that's good."

Sharapova, who hadn't survived two rounds of the Rogers in two previous visits, now faces Poland's Agnieskza Radwanska, the 14th seed. Two others Russians are already safe in the quarters, the fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva and Alisa Kleybanova, who gets the winner of Clijsters-Jankovic.

American Serena Williams, the highest surviving seed at No. 2, will take on Czech underdog Lucie Safarova today, while Dementieva tries to put the brakes on Aussie Samantha Stosur.

One who'd have welcomed a weather delay until this morning is Safarova, who has been in qualifier matches since the weekend, fought three sets that ended late Wednesday to foil both 11th seed Ana Ivanovic and a loud pro-Serbian crowd.

It was right back to work yesterday afternoon against China's Jie Zheng, starting with a difficult 7-6 opener before a 6-4 clincher. All that and her reward is meeting Williams.

"It's my fifth match already, so my powers are going down," said Safarova, who adds that she can't expect Serena's fans to give her much love today.

"I don't mind when the crowd is against me," Safarova insisted.

Williams exacted a little revenge for sister Venus, who was upset two days earlier by Kateryna Bondarenko. Serena defeated elder sister Alona 6-1, 6-4, while Kateryna lost to Radwanska.

In an earlier marathon, Dementieva topped Shahar Peer of Israel in a 21/2 hour battle.


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