Defending champion Maria Sharapova was sent packing from the French Open at the fourth-round stage on Monday, but top seed Serena Williams survived a scare to seal her quarter-final place.

Sharapova, seeded two, was beaten in straight sets 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 by Lucie Safarova, the 13th seed from the Czech Republic who will now meet Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the last eight.

Williams, meanwhile, lost the first set against compatriot Sloane Stephens on the same Court Philippe Chatrier but came back to win 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 and set up a quarter-final clash with Sara Errani of Italy.

Sharapova, who also won the clay-court Grand Slam event in 2012 and was the beaten finalist in 2013, had been forced to wait until Monday morning for her clash with Safarova, which had been postponed on Sunday due to rain in the French capital.

But on a bright Paris morning the Russian second seed, who was looking to become the first woman to successfully defend the French Open title since Justine Henin in 2007, was punished for an erratic display from beginning to end.

Sharapova was broken in her second service game, and although she soon broke back, Safarova claimed the opening set in the tiebreak.

Breaks were again exchanged in the second set but Sharapova found herself serving to stay in the match at 5-4 down, and while she saved one match point she could not save the second that came her opponent’s way.

“I had a few small openings but I wasn’t able to keep up my level. She was more consistent and aggressive, created the angles and that was the difference,” said Sharapova, who had been battling a heavy cold all week.

“It was a tough day at the office.”

– Sluggish start –

In contrast, Williams kept alive her hopes of winning a third French Open title and a 20th Grand Slam crown, but only after another sluggish opening to her match.

Just as against Anna-Lena Friedsam and Victoria Azarenka in the previous two rounds, Williams lost the opening set, Stephens breaking three times to take it 6-1.

The unseeded Stephens had beaten Venus Williams in the first round and was looking to become the fourth player to beat both the famous sisters at the same Grand Slam after Martina Hingis, Henin and, most recently, Kim Clijsters at the US Open in 2009.

Serena found herself serving to stay in the match at 4-5 in the second set but won the game and went on to take the set 7-5 before claiming the decider 6-3 to secure her passage after exactly two hours on court.

Errani, the Italian 17th seed who was the beaten finalist at Roland Garros in 2012, lies in wait for Serena after she beat unseeded German Julia Goerges 6-2, 6-2.

Spanish 21st seed Muguruza, meanwhile, won through to the quarter-finals for the second year running by beating Italy’s 28th seed Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-4 on Court Suzanne Lenglen. 

Twelve months ago Muguruza was knocked out in three sets by Sharapova having defeated Serena Williams in the second round.

“Here again, I have reached the quarter-finals. It’s a great leap forward already. It’s Roland Garros. There’s a lot of pressure. So I’m very happy to have gone that far already,” said Muguruza, who was born in Venezuela.

Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck is through to a Grand Slam quarter-final for the first time after beating fellow unseeded player, Romanian Andreea Mitu, 6-1, 6-3.

The 21-year-old, ranked 93 in the world, becomes the first Belgian to reach the quarters at Roland Garros since Henin in 2007.

Van Uytvanck will now meet either fourth seeded Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic or Switzerland’s 23rd seed Timea Bacsinszky, who were due to meet later on Monday. – Agence France-Presse

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