Sharapova ends Henin's win streak

Updated: 28 January 2008 14:43 IST

Maria Sharapova ended top-ranked Justine Henin's 32-match winning streak with a 6-4, 6-0 victory Tuesday to advance to the Australian Open semifinals.

Sharapova ends Henin's win streak

Melbourne:

Maria Sharapova ended top-ranked Justine Henin's 32-match winning streak with a 6-4, 6-0 victory Tuesday to advance to the AustralianOpen semifinals for the fourth straight year.

Sharapova won't have to face Serena Williams, who beat her in last year's final, after the eight-time Grand Slam winner was ousted 6-3, 6-4 by Jelena Jankovic.

Fifth-ranked Sharapova was beaten by Henin at the season-ending championships in Madrid two months ago in one of the longest women's tour matches - 3 hours and 24 minutes - and had a 2-6 record against the Belgian.

But she came out hot on a cool night, constantly putting pressure on Henin and refusing to wilt when things got tight.

''It's just incredible,'' Sharapova said. ''I really felt like I was in a bubble today.''

She was looking forward to taking on Jankovic.

''We kind of grew up together, practicing at the same academy,'' Sharapova said. ''It's a bit strange. We were always doing the same thing, playing the same groups. It was both of our dreams playing in a Grand Slam, especially playing each other.''

On the men's side, second-ranked Rafael Nadal had a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 win over Number 24 Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, making the semifinals for the first time in four trips to the Australian Open.

''Maybe I wasn't playing my best match, my best tennis today, but it was enough,'' Nadal said. ''It's a good moment for me, first semifinals on hardcourt, Grand Slam.''

The only player to beat Roger Federer in the past 10 Grand Slam tournaments, Nadal will face the winner of the late match between Number 14 Mikhail Youzhny and unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Sharapova, going for winners and keeping Henin on the run with deep, stinging groundstrokes, rushed to a 3-0 lead in the first set. Henin, the crowd favorite in packed Rod Laver Arena, kicked a ball after a fault in a rare show of anger.

She broke Sharapova as she served for the first set at 5-3, only to be broken on a pair of backhand winners in the next game by the Russian, who let out a primal scream of joy and relief.

With little going right for Henin, who won the French Open and US Open titles after missing the Australian Open last year, Sharapova rushed through the second set, ripping 15 winners to only five unforced errors.

It was the first time that Henin had lost a set 6-0 since she was beaten in the first round at the 2002 French Open 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 by Aniko Kapros, a qualifier from Hungary.

Serena Williams loses to Jankovic

Jankovic was seeded third and Williams seventh, so technically, her victory wasn't an upset. But as well as Jankovic has been playing in rising through the rankings, she has never reached the final of a Grand Slam, while Williams seemed to be close to the form that she once used to dominate women's tennis.

Suddenly, stunningly, gone were Williams' chances of defending her title. Gone were images of her spryly sprinting on the court in her first four matches, clearly leaner and fitter than last year, raising questions whether anyone could beat her.

Instead, the last memories will be of Williams struggling, smashing her racket - bashing it twice when, like on so many points this day, she just didn't put enough power to finish it off the first time.

''My shots just weren't right,'' Williams said. ''I didn't move the way I traditionally want to move, and I wasn't feeling 100 percent. But as an athlete, you know not every day you're going to feel 100 percent, and some days you have to win feeling 30 percent.

''I'm not going to sit here and make excuses,'' she added, refusing to specify what was wrong with her physically. ''I lost because Jelena played better than me and I made too many errors. I think regardless, the match was on my racket, and I gave it away.''

Williams beat Jankovic in the fourth round here last year, and there was little cause to think this would be any different, especially with the Serbian woman still not completely recovered from a thigh injury suffered shortly before the tournament began.

''Getting revenge, it feels so good,'' Jankovic said. ''I'm like a wounded animal. I still keep going.

''It was an unbelievable match. I am still shaking. I came out very strong, and I was going for my shots. Especially my backhand down the line was working unbelievably, and that's how I hurt my opponent. I just kept hitting it, and luckily it was all going in.''

Williams and sister Venus, who plays her quarterfinal singles match Wednesday, later were ousted from the women's doubles by the Chinese pair of Yan Zi and Zheng Jie 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.



Topics : Tennis Maria Sharapova
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