of Clay: Henin wins fourth French Open title
Henin, Sharapova ready for French semis
Paris, France (Sports Network) - This year's top seeds, Belgian Justine Henin and Russian Maria Sharapova,
will play their French Open semifinal matches Thursday against a pair of rising Serbs.
The top-seeded/world No. 1 Henin will battle fourth-seeded Jelena Jankovic, while a second-seeded Sharapova
will encounter seventh-seeded Ana Ivanovic.
Henin is a perfect 5-0 lifetime against Jankovic, including three victories already this season. The
Belgian bested her Serbian counterpart in last year's U.S. Open semis.
The 25-year-old Henin owns five major championships, including three of the last four French Open titles.
She bested Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in last year's finale to capture a second straight title at Roland Garros.
Henin is trying to reach a fifth final in her last five Grand Slam events. She appeared in all four
major finales last year (1-3) before missing this year's Australian Open due to personal reasons.
The diminutive Henin has won her last 31 sets at Roland Garros, which is an Open Era record, and is
trying to become the first three-peat champion here since Monica Seles turned the trick from 1990-92.
Meanwhile, the former top-ranked Sharapova will face Ivanovic for a third time, as the two women have
split two career matchups. The Serb captured a meeting in Tokyo earlier this season, 6-1, 0-1, as the tall Russian retired
from that semifinal match because of an injury.
Sharapova is a two-time Grand Slam champ and seeking her third straight trip to a major final. She
beat Henin in last year's U.S. Open championship match and was pasted by Serena Williams in this year's Aussie Open title
bout. Henin dismissed Williams from this 2007 French Open in straight sets here on Tuesday.
Upsets victories by both Jankovic and Ivanovic on Thursday would produce a first-ever all-Serbian Grand
Slam final. Ivanovic will appear in her first- ever major semi, while Jankovic appeared in one in New York last season, losing
to the formidable Henin.
Henin and Sharapova storm into Paris semis
Two-time defending champion Justine Henin and world number two Maria Sharapova stormed
into the semi-finals of the French Open in straight sets overnight.
Henin, 25, gave Serena Williams a lesson in clay court tennis which had the Australian
Open champion once again smashing her racket in frustration at the Philippe Chatrier centre court as she fell 6-4, 6-3 to
the top seed.
The Belgian was joined in the final four by three first time French Open semi-finalists,
including Sharapova who defeated Russian compatriot Anna Chakvetadze 6-3, 6-4.
"I pretty much stood back and let her take advantage of me. I feel violated," said
eighth-seeded Williams. "All she had to do was show up."
Henin next meets Jelena Jankovic, with reigning US Open champion Sharapova facing
off against Ana Ivanovic, the first time that two women from Serbia have reached the semi-finals of a grand slam event.
Jankovic, 22, brushed aside Czech sixth seed Nicole Vaidisova 6-3, 7-5 as Ivanovic,
19, battled past last year's runner-up Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-0, 3-6, 6-1.
However, the eagerly awaited match between Henin and Williams, considered by many
the final before the final of this year's tournament, never lived up to expectations.
The centre court clash also marked the first time Henin and Williams have played
at Roland Garros since their controversial semi-final in 2003 when Henin defeated the defending champion in three sets.
The American left the court in tears after being jeered by the partisan Paris public
who had swung behind the underdog after a series of controversial incidents.
She had the same jeers ringing in her ears this time as she again smashed her racket
in frustration after losing her opening service game in the second set.
"I think they were definitely for Justine, but it doesn't bother me," said Williams.
"Nothing worked today. I don't think I've ever played so bad in a quarter-final of
a grand slam."
Henin, who missed the Australian Open as she was dealing with the break-up of her
marriage, refused to put her victory down to her opponent's poor form.
"I thought I just did a good job," said Henin. "I did everything I could to control
the match. I didn't let her come back."
Sharapova, meanwhile, has now reached at least the semi-finals of all the four grand
slams and she did it in style on Tuesday pulling off her fourth career win over Chakvetadze.
Henin-Serena will highlight Tuesday's women's QFs in Paris
Paris, France (Sports Network) - The women's quarterfinals will be staged Tuesday at the French Open,
highlighted by a highly-anticipated showdown between top-ranked Belgian Justine Henin and former world No. 1 American Serena
The eighth-seeded Williams is 6-3 lifetime against the top-seeded Henin, including wins in their last
two meetings. The American star overcame her Belgian counterpart in a marquee final in Miami earlier this season, but Henin
won their lone meeting at the French Open, back in the 2003, when the Belgian prevailed in a semifinal at Roland Garros. Henin
went on to win that match after winning a controversial point during the clash.
Henin is a five-time Grand Slam champion, including three French Open titles in the last four years.
She's won the last two French Opens, including a victory over Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in last year's finale.
Williams owns eight major titles, including one at the Australian Open back in January and her lone
French Open crown in 2002.
The top-four seeds are all still standing in Paris, and the other three will also take to the courts
here on Day 10.
Second-seeded Maria Sharapova will encounter her ninth-seeded fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze. Sharapova
is 3-0 lifetime against her countrywoman, including a win in the Aussie Open quarters in January. Sharapova also beat Chakvetadze
here in Paris in 2005.
Sharapova staved off some match points here on Sunday in order to sneak past dangerous Swiss lefthander
The 20-year-old Sharapova is a two-time major titlist and has appeared in the last two Grand Slam finals.
She prevailed at last year's U.S. Open and was routed by Williams in this year's Aussie Open title affair.
Also on Tuesday, a third-seeded Kuznetsova will face seventh-seeded Serbian Ana Ivanovic and fourth-seeded
Serbian Jelena Jankovic will meet sixth-seeded Czech Nicole Vaidisova. The former U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova is 1-2 all-
time against Ivanovic, including a setback in a final in Berlin just last month, while Vaidisova is 4-2 lifetime versus Jankovic,
who has won two of her last three against the Czech slugger, including a victory in Sydney back in January. Jankovic also
prevailed in a match against Vaidisova at last year's U.S. Open.
The semifinals will be held here on Thursday, with the winners to meet in the lucrative final on Saturday.
Amelie Mauresmo's second round match was delayed due to torrential rain in Paris on Thursday.
The French former world number one was one set up over Nathalie Dechy, and the players were
in the middle of a second set tie-break when the heavens opened at Roland Garros.
They will resume at 4-2 to Dechy on Friday, competing for a place in the third round where
the victor will face Lucie Safarova.
Matches involving seeds Svetlana Kuznetsova (3), Anna Chakvetadze (9), Anabel Medina Garrigues
(24) Ai Sugiyama (21) and Martina Muller (32) were also interrupted by the rain.
In the men's draw, the inclement weather also ended an epic clash between Jonas Bjorkman and
The Swede raced into a two-set lead over Karlovic, before being pegged back to 2-2.
When the rain came Bjorkman was a break up in the final set, but again the players will have
to return to complete the match on Friday.
French Open: Sharapova triu
mphs over fear and pain
PARIS: On her way to this French
Open, Maria Sharapova had to make an important decision: face her fear of needles and receive a painful shot in her injured,
inflamed shoulder or take time off and skip one of the biggest tournaments of the year.
There was never any doubt what she would choose, Sharapova said.
One cortisone shot and nearly two months later, she walked onto the red clay courts at Roland Garros, sore shoulder and all,
and played her first-round match.
In her second tournament since returning from her injury, Sharapova
beat Émilie Loit, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).
"As long as the doctors give me an OK, as long as I can play
through the little aches and pains that I get from time, then I'm OK, I'm willing to do it," she said. "I take the good with
On another rainy day at Roland Garros, Sharapova, the second
seed, was one of nine Russian women to win their matches Wednesday. With success like that, the American men playing at the
French Open should have asked them for their secrets.
Never before have American men fared this miserably on the red
clay. All nine of them in the draw lost in the first round.
Eight were beaten on Tuesday, including No. 3 Andy Roddick and
No. 8 James Blake. On Wednesday, Robby Ginepri was their final hope. He could not redeem them, losing to Diego Hartfield of
Argentina, 6-4, 1-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
This is the first time in the Open era, which began in 1968,
that all the American men entered in a major tournament lost in the first round. And, yet again, the men seem perplexed on
"I don't know if it's because they are not willing to grind
for the points," said Meilen Tu, one of the five American women still in the singles draw. "I don't know if they're trying
to finish the points too quickly."
"You've got to be ready to hit one more ball," she said.
Ginepri suggested that the Americans host a camp before next
year's clay-court season, where they would be tutored by one of the better clay-court players. Of course, they would have
to search overseas for that man.
On the women's side, four Americans, including Venus Williams,
showed that at least a few could decipher Roland Garros's rich, red clay.
Williams made it to the third round in a tight match against
her fellow American Ashley Harkleroad, 6-1, 7-6 (10-8), though not without a struggle. She took control of the match early
and was leading, 6-1, 5-1, when the mistakes flooded in. Suddenly, the score was 5-5, with the schoolchildren filling the
stands wildly cheering every point.
"I really just got overconfident," Williams said. "I was just
feeling like I couldn't lose, and then it was even. So it was definitely a mistake that I've made before, not often."
Williams fended off five set points to finally win. In the meantime,
one of her serves was clocked at 206 kilometers per hour, or 128 mph, setting the record for the fastest women's serve in
a Grand Slam event.
Still, the day belonged to the Russian women, although the No.
1 seeds Roger Federer and Justin Henin advanced to capture some of the attention.
No. 3 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 9 Anna Chakvetadze and No. 10
Dinara Safina won their matches. But Anastasia Myskina, the player who, in 2004, started the wave of Russian women's success,
only got a quick taste of Roland Garros before being sent home.
When Myskina won the French Open in 2004, she became the first
Russian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title. Since then, the Russians have won three more titles and continue to flood
the top 10.
Myskina returned to Roland Garros on Wednesday, despite having
missed five months after foot surgery in January. She was in search of the magic that made her a champion three years ago.
Instead, it was a short return to the Paris clay. It took only 55 minutes for her to lose to Meghann Shaughnessy, 6-1, 6-0.
Myskina, 25, knew she was not going to win another title here,
considering the surgery that left her big toe painful and swollen. But she did not expect the comeback to be so physically
and mentally jolting.
Now she realizes that the doctors may be right: She may never
play again, at least at a top level.
"You remember how you used to run or you used to play, and now
it's completely different story," she said. "It's difficult not to be sad right now, you know, to say like everything is fine.
Henin and Serena shine in French Open gloom
PARIS - Triple champion Justine Henin and Serena Williams,
the 2002 winner, reached the French Open second round as Roland Garros shivered in rain and biting cold.
In an opening day program decimated by a six-hour rain delay, Belgian top seed Henin, bidding for a
third successive title here and fourth in all, saw off Russian 20-year-old Elena Vesnina 6-4 6-3.
Henin wrapped up victory in 89 minutes and will face Austria's Tamira Paszek for a place in the third
"It was a hard, tough day and the weather will be like this for the rest of the week," said Henin playing
her first Grand Slam event since the break-up of her marriage.
"But winning today is all that counts. It was tough but I controlled the match at the end."
Williams, reinvigorated by her surprise Australian Open triumph in January, which gave the American
her eighth career Grand Slam title, had a much tougher time in her first round clash.
The eighth seed won 12 of the last 13 games as she was forced to battle back from a set down to beat
Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova 5-7 6-1 6-1 and book a match-up with either Virginie Razzano of France or Milagros Sequera of
"The rain slowed down the balls and I wasn't sliding as well as I can in the first set," said Williams.
"But I'm always fighting and if was going to lose, I was going to go down kicking and screaming. I
also knew that if she won, there was a 99.9-percent chance that she wouldn't win the next round.
"That gave me more fight."
Williams struggled in the opening set on the Suzanne Lenglen court in cold, damp conditions.
She fought off set points in the seventh and ninth games and was more than happy to walk off court
for the mararthon rain suspension.
However, Pironkova, playing in only her third match at Roland Garros, kept her nerve when the players
returned to serve out a love game to take the set 7-5.
The slender 19-year-old Bulgarian then broke to lead 1-0 in the second set before Williams turned up
the heat to clinch nine games in a row on her way to grabbing the second set and nipping 3-0 ahead in the decider.
Twenty-four matches had been scheduled for the opening day of the 2007 championship, but with torrential
rain falling for most of Sunday, organisers were forced to cancel 17.
Former world number one Marat Safin of Russia eased past Spanish qualifier Fernando Vicente 6-1 6-3
6-1 in just 84 minutes to ensure his second-round spot before the rain arrived
Serena advances after slow start
Serena Williams recovered from an awful start to her French Open campaign to beat Bulgaria's Tsvetana
The Australian Open champion made 26 errors in the first set and 19-year-old Pironkova emerged from
a six-hour rain delay to clinch it.
But Williams suddenly found her form and reeled off nine games in a row before triumphing 5-7 6-1 6-1.
Williams is in the same quarter of the draw as Justine Henin, a 6-4 6-3 winner over Russian Elena Vesnina
on day one.
"The conditions were difficult," Williams said. "The rain really slows the court down.
"I was already coming back when there was the break and there's no way I wouldn't have gone to at least
"I'm a fighter. I've never lost in the first round of a Grand Slam and I didn't want that to change.
"I was also feeling that if I went down, there was a 99.9% chance she would lose in the next round.
"That helped me keep fighting. I couldn't lose on the Sunday, no way."
Henin, the defending champion, meets Austria's Tamira Paszek in the next round while Williams awaits
the winner of a first-round match between France's Virginie Razzano and Milagros Sequera of Venezuela.
Paszek thrashed Japan's Aiko Nakamura 6-4 6-0 while the only other women's match to be completed on
day one was tenth seed Dinara Safina's 7-5 6-4 win over Ukraine's Yuliana Fedak.
Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Nicole Vaidisova are all due to play on Monday, but more rain is
French Open Draw
(1) Justine Henin (Bel) bt Elena Vesnina (Rus)
Tamira Paszek (Aut) bt Aiko Nakamura (Jpn)
Tanasugarn (Tha) v Casey Dellacqua (Aus)
Agnieska Radwanska (Pol) v (28) Mara Santangelo (Ita)
Bammer (Aut) v Roberta Vinci (Ita)
Yaroslava Shvedova (Rus) v Olga Savchuk (Ukr)
Pauline Parmentier (Fra) v Mariya
Sandra Kloesel (Ger) v (16) Li Na (Chn)
(10) Dinara Safina (Rus) bt Yuliana Fedak (Ukr)
Czink (Hun) v Tzipora Obziler (Isr)
Qualifier v Zheng Jie (Chn)
Yvonne Meusburger (Aut) v (23) F Schiavone (Ita)
Severine Bremond (Fra) v Michaella Krajicek (Ned)
Olivia Sanchez (Fra) v Shenay Perry (US)
Milagros Sequera (Ven)
v Virgnie Razzano (Fra)
(8) Serena Williams (US) bt Tsvetana Pironkova (Bul)
(4) Jelena Jankovic (Ser) v Stephanie Foretz (Fra)
Catalina Castano (Col) v Emma Laine (Fin)
Wosniak (Can) v Ashley Harkleroad (US)
Alize Cornet (Fra) v (26) Venus Williams (US)
(18) Marion Bartoli (Fra)
v Aravane Rezai (Fra)
Jarmila Gajdosova (Svk) v Andrea Petkovic (Ger)
Mathilde Johansson (Fra) v Anna-Lena Groenefeld
Angelique Kerber (Ger) v (13) Elena Dementieva (Rus)
(11) Nadia Petrova (Rus) v Kveta Peschke (Cze)
Yakimova (Blr) v Stephanie Cohen-Aloro (Fra)
Nuria Llagostera Vives (Spa) v Anna Smashnova (Isr)
Akiko Morigami (Jpn)
v (19) Tathiana Garbin (Ita)
(27) Samantha Stosur (Aus) v Jamea Jackson (US)
Maria Kirilenko (Rus) v Maria
Elena Camerin (Ita)
Akgul Amanmuradova (Uzb) v Vania King (US)
Emanuelle Gagliardi (Sui) v (6) Nicole Vaidisova (Cze)
(7) Ana Ivanovic (Ser) v Sofia Arvidsson (Swe)
Alberta Brianti (Ita) v Sania Mirza (Ind)
Poutchek (Blr) v Youlia Fedossova (Fra)
Ioana Raluca Olaru (Rom) v (30) Julia Vakulenko (Ukr)
(24) A Medina
Garrigues (Spa) v Varvara Lepchenko (Uzb)
Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) v Yung-Jan Chan (Tpe)
Olga Poutchkova (Rus) v
Eleni Danilidou (Gre)
J Kostanic Tosic (Cro) v (12) Daniela Hantuchova (Svk)
(15) Shahar Peer (Isr) v
Kaia Kanepi (Est)
Edina Gallovits (Rom) v Vasilisa Bardina (Rus)
Vera Dushevina (Rus) v Camille Pin (Fra)
Rodionova (Rus) v (17) Katarina Srebotnik (Slo)
(32) Martina Muller (Ger) v Rossana De Los Rios (Par)
Cibulkova (Svk) v Tiantian Sun (Chn)
Anastasia Myskina (Rus) v Meghann Shaughnessy (US)
Ekaterina Bychkova (Rus) v (3)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus)
(5) Amelie Mauresmo (Fra) v Laura Granville (US)
Caroline Wozniacki (Den) v Nathalie Dechy
Flavia Pennetta (Ita) v Nicole Pratt (Aus)
Yulia Beygelzimer (Ukr) v (25) Lucie Safarova (Cze)
Ai Sugiyama (Jpn) v Eva Birnerova (Cze)
Romina Oprandi (Ita) v Meilen Tu (US)
Anne Kremer (Lux) v Agnes Szavay (Hun)
Molik (Aus) v (9) Anna Chakvetadze (Rus)
(14) Patty Schnyder (Sui) v Martina Sucha (Svk)
(Ukr) v Zuzana Ondraskova (Cze)
Karin Knapp (Ita) v Victoria Azarenka (Blr)
Iveta Benesova (Cze) v (22) Alona Bondarenko
(29) Gisela Dulko (Arg) v Su-Wei Hsieh (Tpe)
Julia Schruff (Ger) v Alla Kudryavtseva (Rus)
Dominguez Lino (Spa) v Jill Craybas (US)
Emilie Loit (Fra) v (2) Maria Sharapova (Rus)