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Sharapova installed as the favourite after Serena’s exit

MARIA SHARAPOVA assumed the mantle of French Open favourite and moved into the third round with victory over Tsvetana Pironkova.

Serena Williams’ shock exit ‑ her sister Venus was also knocked out, by Slovakian teenager Anna Schmiedlova - has opened the door for Sharapova, who had been due to face a player she has not beaten for 10 years in the quarter-finals.

Although Sharapova is only the seventh seed, she has been the strongest player besides Williams on clay over the last three years, winning the Roland Garros title in 2012 and losing to Williams in the final last year.

She found the going tough in cold and damp conditions against Pironkova but ground out a 7-5 6-2 victory to set up an intriguing third-round clash with Sam Stosur.

Stosur is playing with stitches in her leg after an accident in the gym but has breezed through both her matches so far.

She and Sharapova have met 15 times before, with the Russian winning 13, including on clay in Madrid three weeks ago.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer showed the tennis world has not completely spun off its axis by moving smoothly into the third round.

Federer followed Serena - after the world number one’s loss to to 20-year-old Spaniard Garbine Muguruza (6-2 6-2) - onto Court Suzanne Lenglen, and he did not have things all his own way against qualifier Diego Sebastian Schwartzman but was comfortable enough in a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory.

Djokovic had the upper hand in every area of his match against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy as he eased to a 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory.


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