Maria Sharapova fired a French Open warning with an epic three-hour win over Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the Rome semi-finals on Friday.
Playing her fourth match in as many days, Sharapova needed three hours, 10 minutes to win a gruelling struggle, eventually triumphing 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 7-5.
For Sharapova, now the world number 40, it was arguably her best victory since her return from a 15-month doping ban last year.
The loss, meanwhile, left Ostapenko with only Rome and Stuttgart quarter-finals to show for her efforts prior to the start of her title defence in Paris a week from Sunday.
“It was nice to close things down in that way after a long match,” Sharapova said.
“I didn’t have a great first set, I kept going. I like to smile about it.
“I appreciate this new chapter of my career, I still have lots of passion for the sport and for this life. I realise I’m towards the end of my career so I appreciate it.”
Sharapova rode a roller-coaster in her marathon win, working her way from 4-1 down in the first set only to drop it in a tiebreaker after 80 minutes.
She regained her momentum to win the second set but it was tough in the third when she let a 4-2 lead get away.
With Sharapova serving for victory, Ostapenko secured a break for 4-5 thanks to a ninth Sharapova double-fault which yielded a breakpoint.
The sixth seed then saved two Sharapova match points to level 5-5 before the Russian secured victory two games later with a final break in a match marred by 21 cumulative double-faults and a dozen breaks of serve.