Petrova knocks Venus out of Open

Russian beats American in straight sets as Federer wins to enrage friend Wawrinka.

    Venus was the biggest casualty of the tournament so far [AFP]

    Venus Williams and her much-hyped wardrobe made an unexpected exit as Roger Federer had one of his best friends smashing his racket to pieces in frustration at the French Open.

    Second seed Williams must wait another year for her first singles title at Roland Garros after Russian 19th seed Nadia Petrova showed a steely resolve and a superior ability to cope with the swirling breeze that dogged Day Eight.

    And despite Andy Murray's professed enthusiasm for playing on clay, the British fourth seed's game was again found wanting on the slowest surface of them all as he became the highest-ranked man so far to exit the tournament.

    The women's event had been shaping up for another Williams sisters final, but Petrova outclassed Venus, who opted for a more modest version of the black lacy corset that has set Parisian tongues wagging all week.

    "It's my most dramatic French Open," said Petrova after booking a place in the last eight against fellow Russian Elena Dementieva with the 6-4 6-3 triumph on Sunday.

    Explaining her first defeat by Petrova in five meetings, Williams said her game had malfunctioned in the cold.

    "I feel like I had a day where I wanted to hit the ball crosscourt and it went down the line, sometimes it happens," the 29-year-old said.

    "Sometimes when it's too cold it's hard to feel the racket."


    Earlier, Justine Henin cemented her place in the fourth round after coming through a one-set shootout with another former world number one, Russian 12th seed Maria Sharapova.

    The four-time champion trailed 0-2 0-40 in the decider after darkness had halted their third-round match on Saturday at one-set all, but a change of gear from the Belgian saw her to a 6-2 3-6 6-3 win and meant Sharapova is still missing only the French Open title from her Grand Slam collection.

    "That game was so important, because at 3-0 with two breaks, it was really I think difficult to come back. She's a champion, so as soon as you give her the opportunities she takes them," a relieved Henin said.

    Federer may be one of Stanislas Wawrinka's closest friends on the tour but it did not stop the defending champion from driving his fellow Swiss mad with frustration as he nonchalantly booked his place in the last eight.

    Wawrinka had the audacity to break the Federer serve in the second set and had the upper hand until the man he won Olympic doubles gold with two years ago decided to turn the screw.


    He took the second set to a tiebreak which he won 7-5, prompting Wawrinka to smash his racket into the red clay three times, mangling the frame and strings in the process.

    The resulting code violation failed to galvanise him and Federer stormed through the third set to record a 6-3 7-6 6-2 victory in under two hours.

    Federer now faces Robin Soderling, the man he beat to complete his career Grand Slam here last year, after the dangerous Swede destroyed Croatia's Marin Cilic 6-4 6-4 6-2.

    "I've never lost against him, so obviously that's a good record to have," said Federer who is 12-0 against the Swede who has stormed his way through the draw for the loss of one set.

    "But because of the improvements he's made, he's an opponent not to under-estimate."

    French hopes died when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired injured with a stomach injury after losing the first set in his fourth round clash against Mikhail Youzhny.

    Unlike Tsonga and his many French rivals, Murray singlehandedly carries his nation's hopes on his shoulders and against Czech Tomas Berdych his game did not pass muster.

    The 6ft 5ins 15th seed crunched winner after winner and continued his run of not losing a set in the tournament with the 6-4 7-5 6-3 fourth-round victory in the fading light on Suzanne Lenglen court.

    Dream over

    Dementieva ended the dream run of qualifier Chanelle Scheepers, the first South African to reach the fourth round for 13 years, in an error-strewn opener on Court Philippe Chatrier.

    Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone reached the quarter-finals for the first time since her maiden appearance in 2001 after a defiant two-set win over Russian 30th seed Maria Kirilenko.

    Hopes of an all-Italian last-eight clash were raised when Flavia Pennetta levelled her fourth-round match with third seed Caroline Wozniacki after two tense tiebreaks, but the teenaged Dane showed her class by dashing through the third 6-2 to reach the last eight for the first time in her career here.



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