Sharapova unmoved by early upsets

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The Independent Online

A rash of startling upsets on Maria Sharapova's side of the US Open draw has not elevated the Russian's chances of winning her second title at Flushing Meadows, the three-times grand slam winner said.

Fourth seed Elena Dementieva and number five Jelena Jankovic were unexpectedly bounced from the final grand slam on Thursday and are no longer on Sharapova's radar screen.

Sharapova, however, refused to see that as an opportunity.

"Just because other people are struggling doesn't make me a bigger contender," Sharapova said after routing 17-year-old American wildcard Christina McHale 6-2 6-1 in a second-round match under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"I'm a contender when I'm in the draw. That's the way I look at it. I play one match at a time.

"I mean, other people's struggles don't make my draw or anything else in my path to a grand slam easier."

Next up for the Sharapova will be Melanie Oudin, the 17-year-old giant-killer who produced the biggest upset of the tournament when she stunned Dementieva 5-7 6-4 6-3.

Sharapova said she saw some of the match and when "Melanie had to step it up, she certainly did."

"In the times when she could have made errors, she came up with some really good shots," said Sharapova, who won the Open in 2006. "I've got a tough round ahead of me.

"I'm sure she's going to swing and have nothing to lose, which she doesn't. But I'm looking forward to that."

The popular 22-year-old Sharapova, still trying to shake off the rust from last October's shoulder surgery, concedes Oudin might be the crowd favourite at Flushing Meadows.

"That's totally understandable," she said. "We're in New York City. I'm a Russian playing against a young, up and coming girl that has a tremendous amount of potential.

"It would be strange if they weren't rooting for her."