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Early Rome defeat was a blessing for Sharapova

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova is not the sort to take defeat lightly yet the former world number one believes her early exit at the Italian Open could be a blessing in disguise for the French Open.

The Russian, seeded seventh in Paris, won back-to-back claycourt titles in Stuttgart and Madrid but her run came to an end when Ana Ivanovic beat her in the third round in Rome.

"I think it gave me a few extra days maybe to rest," Russian Sharapova, the 2012 French Open champion and runner-up last year, told reporters.

"To get on the courts as soon you can and get as many hours on the big courts as you might get before everybody else comes.

"So in a way it's been great to have that."

Sharapova completed her career grand slam in Paris two years ago as she finally mastered a surface that baffled her on occasions in previous years.

Her wins in Stuttgart and Madrid underlined just how comfortable and confident she now feels on clay.

"I had great preparation. I had two great tournaments and had really tough matches, easier matches," she said.

"I think a lot has been thrown at me in the last few weeks in all the matches I have played, and I think that's great for, you know, coming into a big tournament like this."

The 27-year-old has seen her career interrupted by shoulder problems down the years but says the hunger to add more grand slam titles to the four she owns is still there.

"I want to achieve more and I want to win more grand Slams and I want to get back to No.1," she said.

"I think when you have that feeling of being there before and holding those trophies, they are so memorable.

"To feel that excitement, to feel that energy, that adrenaline for those moments."

Sharapova faces a tough task to reach the final with world number one Serena Williams a likely quarter-final opponent.

"I don't look too far ahead, but I'm not scared to see like who I would play later down the line," she said.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman)

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