Maria Sharapova's hold on the French Open title was ended today, as she surprisingly crashed out of Roland Garros at the hands of the underrated Czech player Lucie Safarova. Serena Williams and Ana Ivanovic were also made to struggle before they qualified for the quarter-finals in the women's singles event.

Sharapova's exit

Sharapova had been struggling throughout her earlier matches with a cold and a bad cough, but had managed to continue winning through nonetheless. In a close contest against the 13th seeded Safarova, the first set went to a tie-break which her opponent took quite comfortably by 7 points to 3.

Set two was equally close before Safarova, playing the more powerful Tennis, decisively broke the Russian's serve to clinch the match 7-6 6-4. It will be the first time in four years that Sharapova has not made the final in France, having won the title in both 2012 and last year.

In explanation of her success, Safarova said that she had decided to "play aggressive and to come forward for the points." It clearly worked, with the Russian summing up her day as a "bad day at the office." Safarova outscored Sharapova in terms of the number of winners, 34 to 20, giving her the edge at the crucial moments in the match.

Safarova's pedigree

Safarova has yet to reach the final of a Grand Slam in the singles, but did taste Grand Slam success with her partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles at this year's Australian Open.

Serena made to toil for success

Serena had looked like she may well join the number two seed in exiting the championships, as she engaged in a tight contest with her younger American compatriot, Sloane Stephens. Indeed, she looked completely out of sorts in losing the first set to Stephens, who had knocked Venus Williams and Britain's Heather Watson out of the competition in earlier rounds.

Serena's serve was broken three times in that opening set, as she made far too many unforced errors to be competitive.

At 33 years of age and with 19 Grand Slam singles titles to her name, the younger of the Williams sisters has seen it all before though. She toughed out a tense second set before claiming the match 1-6 7-5 6-3.

She can expect just as tough an encounter in the quarter-finals, when she faces the Italian 17th seed Sara Errani. Although their head to head at 8-0 to Serena would suggest that she should have the upper hand, their last meeting on clay earlier this year went to three sets.

Former champion Ivanovic through

Also through to the last-eight is Ivanovic, a former world number one and winner of the title in 2008. Her last-sixteen clash with Ekaterina Makarova of Russia was always expected to be a close affair, given that Ivanovic is only two places higher in the rankings at number seven.

There was little to separate them after two sets, the Serbian taking the first, Makarova levelling the contest with the second. Ivanovic came through strongly in the decider though, taking the match 7-5 3-6 6-1. She may well feel that this could be her year to regain the title, as she will be playing in the quarter-finals for the first time since that 2008 success.