PARIS: Second seed Venus Williams crashed to Russia’s Nadia Petrova in the fourth round of the French Open as four-time champion Justine Henin edged a tight battle with Maria Sharapova.
Williams, a runner-up here in 2002, became the biggest casualty of the tournament so far when she lost 6-3, 6-4 to Petrova, the 19th seed, on Court Philippe Chatrier. Williams spurned two break points in the first set and Petrova made her pay for her profligacy by converting one of the two break points that came her way to take a one-set lead.
A netted forehand from Petrova, twice a semi-finalist, gave Williams an early break of serve in the second set but the Russian broke back and then broke again to take a 4-3 lead.
The Russian was 5-3 and 30-0 up on Williams’s serve when she appeared to lose her nerve, miscuing a straightforward smash and netting a forehand, but she recovered to whip a forehand past the American on her first match point.
Petrova will meet compatriot Elena Dementieva, the fifth seed, for a place in the semi-finals.
Henin ousts Sharapova after the dark
Henin displayed all her trademark grit to see off fellow former world number one Sharapova, hitting back from 0-2 and 0-40 down in the last set to claim a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory that takes her into round four.
The Belgian 22nd seed will play Australian seventh seed Samantha Stosur for a last-eight berth.
The match resumed yesterday after play was suspended at one set all amid fading light on Saturday evening and Henin’s victory consigned 12th seed Sharapova to her earliest French Open exit since 2003.
Wozniaki through in three-hour battle
Danish third-seed Caroline Wozniacki, 19, came through an engaging three-hour scrap with Italy’s 14th-seed Flavia Pennetta to reach a quarter-final showdown with another Italian, Francesca Schiavone.
Wozniacki led 4-2 in the first set but allowed Pennetta to battle back to lead 5-4 and had to see off a set point before winning a first-set tie-break when the Italian scuttled a backhand into the net.
Pennetta levelled the match by winning a tense second-set tie-break but the nine-year age gap between the players finally told in the decider, as Wozniacki broke for a 4-2 lead before closing out a 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (4/7), 6-2 victory.
Dementiva reaches last-eight
Earlier, Dementieva swept into the quarter-finals with an emphatic 6-1, 6-3 victory over South African qualifier Chanelle Scheepers.
The Russian had struggled to complete her third-round win over Aleksandra Wozniak due to a calf injury but won in 74 minutes to stay on course for a first final here since she lost to Anastasia Myskina in the 2004 decider.
“After every match you lose, you’re always disappointed,” said Scheepers, the first South African to reach round four since Amanda Coetzer in 1997. “It was a really good experience for me, but obviously I wanted to do better.”
Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, the 30th seed who eliminated the defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the previous round, lost in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 to 17th seed Schiavone.
“If someone says I’m better than Roger, I think they know nothing about tennis. You see his titles, you see my titles. There’s no comparison. It’s difficult to compare Roger with me right now. He has 16 Grand Slams, I have six. Roger’s records might be impossible to beat.”
“There are a lot of adjustments that have to be made here. I have to compensate in certain areas for weaknesses that I have here. Obviously my serve gets a little bit better. It’s just a more comfortable feeling and with that comes a greater sense of confidence.”
“Everything is heavy here at Roland Garros. There is tons of clay on the court and it has been raining. Then it gets dark. Then you come out the next day and it could have been bright and sunny and it wasn’t. We’re in Europe. What can you expect?”
“It was a great feeling, playing for the first time on that court. It’s to see how you can improve and get to that level. I started out a little slow and maybe a little nervous and against Dementieva you cannot really play yourself into the match.”
Published in the Express Tribune, May 31st, 2010.