Henin-Hardenne, Pierce score upsets

Updated: May 31, 2005, 1:19 PM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- Lindsay Davenport ran out of comebacks, losing Tuesday to Frenchwoman Mary Pierce in the quarterfinals at the French Open.

Pierce beat Davenport 6-3, 6-2 and advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal since winning at Roland Garros in 2000.

No. 1-ranked Davenport had rallied after dropping the first set in three of her four previous matches, including a win over Kim Clijsters. But Pierce raced to a 5-0 lead in the second set, then overcame some shaky moments near the finish.

"I'm really shocked," said Pierce, seeded 21st. "I did not think at all I would win this match as easily as I did. I beat the No. 1 in two sets."

Davenport again came up short at the only major event she has yet to win, but it was her best showing at Roland Garros since 1999. She was the tournament's lone remaining American, male or female.

Justine Henin-Hardenne's wide variety of sharply angled shots had Maria Sharapova staggering across the clay in vain pursuit. With drop shots, deft volleys and picturesque backhands, Henin-Hardenne kept Sharapova on the run Tuesday and easily advanced to the French Open semifinals, winning 6-4, 6-2.

It was a remarkable show of stamina by Henin-Hardenne less than 24 hours after she overcame two match points to win a 3-hour, 15-minute marathon against Svetlana Kuznetsova.

"My game is probably better than it has ever been," said Henin-Hardenne, whose three Grand Slam titles include the 2003 French Open. "I was feeling great. ... I changed all my shots a lot, and that helped me to win the match pretty easily."

The 2003 Roland Garros champion ran her winning streak to 22 matches, all on clay, and improved to 25-1 since returning in March from a seven-month layoff because of a blood virus and knee injury.

"She can produce a huge variety of shots," Sharapova said. "On clay she has the time to do that, and I think that's what makes her so dangerous."

Henin-Hardenne's opponent Thursday will be No. 7-seeded Nadia Petrova, who reached the semifinals at Roland Garros for the second time by beating 17-year-old Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 6-2. Petrova is the highest remaining seed after Sharapova's and Davenport's losses.

Pierce will play another Russian, 29-year-old Elena Likhovtseva, who advanced to a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time in her 12-year career by beating 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Likhovtseva, seeded 16th, has never been beyond the third round before in 10 previous appearances at Roland Garros.

Pierce took charge of her baseline duel against Davenport from the start, racing to a 4-0 lead. She finished with 28 winners, repeatedly finding the open court against slow-footed Davenport.

Pierce needed 11 match points to beat Patty Schnyder in the previous round, but this time she required only three. After she double-faulted to fall behind love-30 in the final game, Davenport blew two easy putaways to squander any momentum.

On the final point, Davenport dumped a backhand into the net.

"Those things just weren't going in today," Davenport said. "Missing balls on top of her playing well – it was a bad combo."

Henin-Hardenne, seeded 10th but the pre-tournament favorite with oddsmakers, has been bothered in recent weeks by a sore back and was pushed to three sets three times in the early rounds. But she dominated Sharapova with a polished performance.

"Today when I woke up, I felt I had nothing to lose," said Henin-Hardenne, who conceded that nerves affected her in earlier rounds. "I didn't have the same kind of pressure. I'm playing a very good French Open. I hope I can keep going."

The Belgian totaled 22 winners and just 17 unforced errors while losing serve only once. When Sharapova sent a backhand long on match point, Henin-Hardenne grinned, screamed and punched the air.

"She just has a lot of confidence," Sharapova said. "You hit a big shot, and she can come up with a tougher shot. She made great drop shots at important points, and that comes with confidence."

No. 2-ranked Sharapova came up short in her bid to overtake Davenport at Roland Garros and claim the No. 1 spot for the first time.

"Every loss is disappointing," Sharapova said. "I'm sure you hear that from every loser. But that's the way it goes. I can't win everything."

Likhovtseva rallied against unseeded Karatantcheva, who upset Venus Williams in the third round and was seeking to become the youngest French Open semifinalist since 1990. Karatantcheva was two games from victory leading 4-3 in the second set, but her serve and groundstrokes suddenly began to misfire, allowing Likhovtseva to sweep the next three games and even the match.

The third set developed into a series of conservative groundstrokes and long points -- the kind of rallies reminiscent of the Chris Evert era. Karatantcheva hit some weary shots down the stretch, and Likhovtseva won the final eight points.

"She played great," Karatantcheva said, "and I don't think I really believed in myself today. I hope I have more quarterfinals to play, and I hope I win then."

Playing the first match on center court in hazy, 65-degree weather, young Karatantcheva showed no evidence of nerves at the outset and raced to a 3-0 lead. She ripped a backhand winner crosscourt to close out the first set in 34 minutes.

Likhovtseva was less reluctant to move forward, which helped turn the match in her favor. She totaled 29 winners to just 16 for Karatantcheva, who committed seven double-faults.

"I was really nervous at the beginning," Likhovtseva said. "I just tried to enjoy the game. I fought, and I think I played well."

Ivanovic hit just 10 winners and had 33 unforced errors against Petrova, who has lost just 33 games and one set in her five victories.

Petrova also reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2003 before losing to Kim Clijsters. Despite her No. 7 seed, the 22-year-old Russian has yet to win a WTA Tour title.

"I've been already in a semifinal once," Petrova said. "So to do it the second time, it's a little bit easier because I know what it takes to be there, and I know how I should be on the court to win the match. You know, all this crowd, all those expectation, it's not easy. You have to learn to be quiet on yourself and put all the outside influence away."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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