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Sharapova full of praise for Stephens

Story highlights

  • Defending champion Maria Sharapova eases into quarters against Sloane Stephens
  • Russian to meet Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in last eight
  • Former doubles partners Azarenka and Kirilenko set for quarterfinal clash
Defending champion Maria Sharapova predicted a bright future for Sloane Stephens despite beating the American in straight sets on Monday to reach the quarterfinals of the French Open.
The world No. 2 overcame windy conditions to beat the 17th seed 6-4 6-3 and earn a last eight clash with Serbia's Jelena Jankovic.
"I think Sloane has a tremendous amount of potential and she has a lot of things in her game in which there is a lot of room for even more improvement," the Russian told reporters after the match.
"There are some players you play against and you're not quite sure if they will be able to develop something to a different level, but I think she will.
"She has a big game already - big strokes, pretty good serve. She has a lot of time to develop. If she's in the right hands at the right time, I'm sure she's going to have a great career."
Stephens, who turned 20 in March, was in the second week of a grand slam for only the third time, having eclipsed her fourth round appearance in Paris last year when reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open in January.
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"There's always room for improvement," the American said on Monday. "Maria's obviously a really great competitor if she's No.2 in the world, so it's tough. You've just got to keep improving.
"I wouldn't say there's a drastic difference - you just have to keep getting better. Some things I can improve on, so I'll do that. Overall I've done pretty well, though."
"I enjoyed myself here at Roland Garros this year."
Next up for Sharapova is Jankovic, with the 18th seed defeating Jamie Hampton 6-0 6-2, and although the Russian leads their meetings 7-1 the pair have yet to meet on clay.
"We know each other quite well," Sharapova said. "We played against each other quite a bit in the juniors all the time. We spent a lot of time together."
"I think the clay really suits her game. She's a great retriever and gets a lot of balls back. She's playing much more consistent I believe than she's done in the last couple of years, which is nice to see, because she was at that level and maintained that level for quite a bit of time.
"She's a really tough opponent. I look forward to it."
Earlier in the day, third seed Victoria Azarenka enjoyed a similarly routine victory as the double Australian Open champion beat Francesca Schiavone 6-3 6-0.
The Belarus star next faces former doubles partner Maria Kirilenko after the Russian 12th seed reached the quarterfinals for the first time with a 7-5 6-4 win over world number 66 Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States.
"I've played Maria a lot of times. I think the last time was the Olympics," said Azarenka, who took a bronze medal from their London 2012 encounter.
"She's definitely improved a lot over the last couple years since she's a very motivated player (and a) good friend of mine, also."
The most notable result for Azarenka and Kirilenko as doubles partners was at the 2011 Australian Open, where they finished runners-up.
Kirilenko, who trails her friend 3-2 from their previous meetings, has never reached the semifinals of a grand slam.
In the opening quarterfinals on Tuesday, Serena Williams takes on 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova while fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska continues her bid for a first grand slam when facing last year's Roland Garros runner-up, Sara Errani.