Henin out as Stosur faces Serena

Returning hero bows out in three sets as Stosur sets up daunting quarter-final.

    Stosur will face Serena Williams in the next round [AFP]

    Justine Henin received a standing ovation but it had a hollow ring for the Belgian as her 24-match winning run at the French Open came to a juddering halt and her script for a triumphant return lay in shreds.

    The four-times champion again failed to scale the heights she achieved when completing a rare hat-trick of titles here in 2007 and the 27-year-old was dumped out in the fourth round by Australia's Samantha Stosur.

    Stosur, who reached the semi-finals last year, sabotaged an eagerly-anticipated quarter-final between Henin and Serena Williams but was well worth her 2-6 6-1 6-4 victory as she moved through to face American world number one Serena Williams.

    "I can't really believe it," the 26-year-old Australian said in a courtside interview. "(After losing the first set) I told myself to just keep going. I believed in myself."

    As grey clouds again blanketed the French capital Williams sped into the last eight with a 6-2 6-2 defeat of Israel's Shahar Peer despite a shocking start when she lost the opening seven points on Court Phillipe Chatrier.

    With the claycourt slam rumbling towards next weekend's climax, the remaining four men's and women's quarter-final berths were up for grabs on Day Nine.


    Rafael Nadal snuffed out the threat of Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci on Monday, winning 6-2 7-5 6-4 to safely avoid any repeat of last year's shock fourth-round exit at the French Open.

    Nadal, whose four-year domination at Roland Garros was ended exactly a year ago by Sweden's Robin Soderling, was pushed hard by the 22-year-old after dominating the first set but the outcome was never seriously in doubt.

    The Spanish world number two had his serve broken four times during the two hour 33 minute contest on a packed Court Philippe Chatrier but always found a stinging response to deflate the 24th seed.

    Nadal, bidding for a fifth title, will face Spanish opposition in the quarter-final, either in the shape of seventh seed Fernando Verdasco or 19th seed Nicolas Almagro.

    World number one Roger Federer advanced on Sunday in the top half of the draw and Serbia's Novak Djokovic, who beat his first three opponents here with a minimum of fanfare, moved into the business end of the tournament on Monday.

    Up against Robby Ginepri, the sole American man to survive to the last 16, Djokovic initially had some sticky moments before leaving his opponent face down in the Parisian dust.

    Ginepri managed his first set in five meetings off third seed Djokovic to level the match but was eventually overwhelmed by the razor-sharp serve – resorting to some impromptu push-ups after being bowled over by one fierce exchange.

    'Great shape'

    "I'm in great shape for the second week of the tournament," the 23-year-old said after a 6-4 2-6 6-1 6-2 victory that set up a quarter-final against Jurgen Melzer.

    Ginepri, hoping to celebrate Memorial Day in style, was left to rue his bout of showmanship which entertained the fans wrapped up against the cool weather, but did little for his concentration in the heat of the contest.

    "You know, maybe that took a little bit of my focus away doing that. I'll probably never do push-ups again on court," the 27-year-old American said.

    Melzer, the oldest man left in the draw, became the first Austrian since Thomas Muster in 1998 to reach the last eight when he knocked out Russian qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili 7-6 4-6 6-1 6-4.

    Williams looked in far better health than on Saturday when she had a check-up by a doctor during her defeat of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, striking six aces to dispatch the disappointing Peer in quick time.

    "I seem to always be able to turn it up during this particular stage maybe, the fourth round, for some reason," the 28-year-old, who won the title here for the only time in 2002, said.

    "Hopefully I turn it up again."

    The same could not be said of Henin on Monday at a venue she knows as well as her own backyard.

    Making her return this year from a retirement that she announced just before the 2008 French Open, Henin has struggled to find the old spark. She scrambled past Maria Sharapova on Sunday but was a shadow of her former self against Stosur despite winning the first set in 32 minutes.

    When Stosur upped her game Henin could not respond and when she was broken at 4-4 in the deciding set Stosur held her nerve to seal victory with a smash.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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