PARIS - Facing match point in the quarterfinals, Maria Sharapova was no longer focused on winning her first French Open title. She merely wanted to win a game.
That she did. The weary, rusty Russian averted a shutout yesterday but lost to Dominika Cibulkova, 6-0, 6-2, in the worst Grand Slam defeat of her career.
"I don't really care about numbers," she said. "It's either a W or an L, and I prefer W. You know, if it's 7-6 in the third and you come out with a loss, I mean, what's the difference?"
Cibulkova's opponent tomorrow will be top-ranked Dinara Safina, who rallied to beat Victoria Azarenka, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Cibulkova was one point from victory at 5-0 in the second set before Sharapova finally found her form. She hit a flurry of winners and saved four match points before Cibulkova closed out the win.
The unseeded Sharapova, 22, was playing in just her second tournament after a layoff of nearly 10 months because of a right-shoulder injury. She won three-setters in all four previous rounds in Paris, and the long matches took a toll.
"I guess you could only ask your body to do so much," she said. "Everything fell a little short today. The pace wasn't there on my strokes, and I was five steps slower."
The three-time Grand Slam champion had 27 unforced errors to nine for the 20th-seeded Cibulkova, a Slovak who advanced to her first major semifinal.
In men's play, Robin Soderling came up with an impressive encore to his upset of top-ranked Rafael Nadal by beating Nikolay Davydenko. The 23d-seeded Soderling swept the first five games and won, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1, to advance beyond the third round at a major event for the first time.
"I always knew that I could play really, really good tennis," he said.
After ending Nadal's four-year reign as French Open champion, Soderling received a congratulatory text message from fellow Swede Bjorn Borg. His opponent Friday will be 12th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez, who became the first Chilean in the Open era to reach the semifinals at Roland Garros Stadium when he beat third-seeded Andy Murray, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4.
Gonzalez finished with 24 forehand winners to three for Murray, who praised his opponent's forehand as the best in the game.
"He can hit winners from anywhere on the court," Murray said. "That's why it's dangerous."
The Sharapova-Cibulkova match was more about errors than winners. Sharapova's legs looked wobbly and she repeatedly hit the ball late, while the 20-year-old Cibulkova relied on steady strokes from the baseline.
Robin Soderling (23), Sweden, def. Nikolay Davydenko (10), Russia, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. Fernando Gonzalez (12), Chile, def. Andy Murray (3), Britain, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4.
Dinara Safina (1), Russia, def. Victoria Azarenka (9), Belarus, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. Dominika Cibulkova (20), Slovakia, def. Maria Sharapova, Russia, 6-0, 6-2.
Daniel Nestor, Canada, and Nenad Zimonjic (1), Serbia, def. Igor Kunitsyn and Dmitry Tursunov, Russia, 6-4, 6-2. Bob and Mike Bryan (2), United States, def. Marc Lopez and Tommy Robredo, Spain, 7-6 (1), 4-6, 7-6 (2).
Cara Black, Zimbabwe, and Liezel Huber (1), United States, def. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, United States, and Nadia Petrova (10), Russia, 6-3, 6-3. Hsieh Su-wei, Taiwan, and Peng Shuai (9), China, def. Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska, Poland, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Germany, and Mark Knowles, Bahamas, def. Alisa Kleybanova, Russia, and Bruno Soares, Brazil, 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 tiebreak. Nadia Petrova, Russia, and Max Mirnyi (4), Belarus, def. Nathalie Dechy, France, and Andy Ram, Israel, 6-3, 6-1.