Williams and Henin set up Paris showdown

4th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 4, 2007 (AFP) - Top seed and title-holder Justine Henin and top challenger Serena Williams set up a French Open quarter-finals showdown when both easily won their fourth round ties on Sunday.

PARIS, June 4, 2007 (AFP) - Top seed and title-holder Justine Henin and top challenger Serena Williams set up a French Open quarter-finals showdown when both easily won their fourth round ties on Sunday.

Henin, apart from a brief second set blip, was in total command as she brushed aside Sybille Bammer of Austria 6-2, 6-4 for her 18th straight win at Roland Garros.

Williams, seeking a second Paris title five years after her first,  underlined her threat by blasting past Russia's Dinara Safina 6-2, 6-3.

The two last played here in the 2003 semi-finals when Henin won a superb but controversial three-setter that saw Williams leave the court in tears as the Paris crowd backed the underdog Belgian.

"Justine is really good here. Usually I don't have to peak too soon but this will be different," Williams said. "But I am playing the clay court game really good.

"I don't want to reflect on what happened in 2003 any more. This is a new year and we are both different people. I have matured and if the crowd gets involved I can just zone out."

Henin agreed that 2003 was best consigned to the past as far as this year's tournament goes.

"What happened in 2003 was one of the best memories of my career and I will never forget that moment," she said.

"But it's four years ago now and a lot of things have happened and we've grown up a lot.=

"Everyone sees me as the favourite, but I disagree with that. We will all eight be favourites.".

In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Maria Sharapova saved three match points in a battling performance to defeat Switzerland's Patty Schnyder 3-6, 6-4, 9-7 and reach the last eight for the third time.

Three times the vastly experienced Schnyder, playing in her 44th Grand Slam tournament, served for the match and three times Sharapova went on the offensive to thwart her.

Finally she managed to hold her own serve and for the fourth time in a row she captured Schnyder's service, leaping for joy when the Swiss hit wide on match point.

Sharapova will play fellow Russian Anna Chakvatedze in the quarter-finals with a first ever semi-final appearance at Roland Garros her potential reward.

The 20-year-old Chakvatedze blew hot and cold before disposing of Amelie Mauresmo's conqueror Lucie Safarova 6-4, 0-6, 6-2.

First through minutes before Williams sealed victory was 18-year-old Czech prodigy Nicole Vaidisova who reached the last eight for a second straight year with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-1 win over Italy's Tathiana Garbin.

Last year's losing finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova followed with an impressive 6-4, 6-3 win over Israeli Shahar Peer, a player she had lost to twice already this year, notably at the same stage in the Australian Open.

Two Serbs made it through to the last eight in the shape of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic.

German Open champion Ana Ivanovic reached her second Grand Slam quarter-final with a tough 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over battling Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain. She will play Kuznetsova whom she beat in the German Open final earlier this month

The fancied Jankovic maintained her excellent form defeating the final French hope Marion Bartoli 6-1, 6-1 in a centre court slaughter and she goes up against Vaidisova.

Australian Open champion Williams blasted out of the blocks against Safina, the 10th seed and sister of Marat, the former men's world number one.

She broke her opponent's first two service games to go 4-0 up and wrapped up the set 6-2 in 36 minutes.

The second set was a different story with both players struggling to hold on to their serves and Safina, a quarter-finalist here last year, at times matching Williams for power off her groundstrokes.

The pair exchanged two service breaks each to get to 3-3 but in the following game Williams made the difference with a third service break before moving 5-3 ahead.

There was no way back for Safina who had her service broken for the sixth time in the match as Williams returned to the French Open quarter-finals for the first time since 2004, the last time she played at Roland Garros.

Henin was just as dismissive racing out into a commanding set and 4-0 lead out on the Suzanne Lenglen Court.

Bammer, the only mother in the main draw, clawed her way back with two breaks of serve to pull level at 4-4, but Henin promptly snuffed out any hints of a comeback by winning the next two games.

Vaidisova, employing a new service action to avoid the shoulder pain that sidelined her earlier this year, said that she had learned from her semi-final appearance last year.

"I've been working on it to cut out the mistakes and it's been working," she said. "I've been under no pressure here as I have been out for a month. It's just great not to have any pain."

Copyright AFP

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