Sharapova advances to quarters of Istanbul Cup; Venus wins

May 22, 2007 - 5:07 PM ISTANBUL, Turkey (Ticker) -- Maria Sharapova had a tough time shaking off the rust, but still advanced to the quarterfinals of the Istanbul Cup.

Sidelined for nearly two months due to a shoulder injury, the top seed from Russia defeated Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) on Tuesday in the $200,000 Tier III claycourt event.

Sharapova lost three of the first four games before winning the next four games to take control of the first set. But Sharapova struggled in the second set before dominating the tiebreak.

The world's second-ranked player, Sharapova had not played since she was routed in straight sets by Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open on March 27. Williams also easily defeated the ravishing Russian in the Australian Open final.

After taking the last seven weeks off to nurse her injury, the 20-year-old Sharapova now will have to cram for next week's French Open, the only Grand Slam event in which she has failed to advance beyond the quarterfinals.

The 20-year-old Sharapova received a first-round bye in this claycourt event before facing Pironkova. She will face either Romina Oprandi of Italy or Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the quarterfinals.

Second-seeded Russian Elena Dementieva also received a first-round bye and will make her Istanbul debut against Croatian Jelena Kostanic Tosic on Wednesday.

Fourth-seeded Venus Williams missed the Australian Open due to injury, but will play in the French Open. She started her claycourt preparations for the second Grand Slam of the year with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Tatiana Poutchek of Belarus on Tuesday.

"I haven't played at any Grand Slams this year, but that will be a great place to start," Williams said.

The 2004 champion, Williams will face France's Aravane Rezai in the second round.

Third-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland breezed past Yung-Jan Chan of Chinese Tapei, 6-1, 6-1, in a first-round match on Tuesday.

Schnyder will meet American Vania King, who defeated Turkey's Ipek Senoglu, 6-3, 7-5.

No. 6 Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany and eighth-seeded Sania Mirza of India were first-round upset victims. Catalina Castano of Colombia beat Groenefeld, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 and American Meghann Shaughnessy ousted Mirza, 6-4, 6-3.

First prize is $28,180.

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