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Archive for Friday, June 8, 2007

Henin one away from a three-peat

Belgian advances to French Open finals, will face Ivanovic

June 8, 2007

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— Maria Sharapova lost her French Open semifinal to Ana Ivanovic, a Serbian teenager who soared to a 6-2, 6-1 victory Thursday to reach her first Grand Slam final.

Justine Henin beat Jelena Jankovic, 6-2, 6-2, in the other semifinal. The Belgian will become the first woman to win three consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Monica Seles in 1990-92 if she defeats Ivanovic on Saturday.

"I was expecting a very tough match," Henin said. "I was wary after our last five matches. I'm happy to get through to my fourth final at Roland Garros."

In their only previous meeting two years ago, Henin beat Ivanovic in straight sets on clay in Warsaw, Poland.

Henin improved to 6-0 against Jankovic head-to-head, including a win in the semifinals of last year's U.S. Open. But it was the first time the Serb had lost in straight sets to Henin, who also won in Paris in 2003.

"It was disappointing for me to lose like this," Jankovic said. "But I think Justine was a way better player than I was today. All credit to her, she played really well, flawless."

Ivanovic, seeded seventh, neutralized Sharapova's power and kept her on the run. Sharapova was looking to advance to her third consecutive final in a major after winning last year's U.S. Open.

"I was thinking the game would be much closer," Ivanovic said. "She is an aggressive player and likes to dominate. I knew she was not a great mover on the clay."

Sharapova's defeat was reminiscent of her 6-1, 6-2 loss to Serena Williams in the Australian Open final in January. Playing in her first French Open semifinal, Sharapova struggled to chase down Ivanovic's pinpoint strokes.

"I felt like she was always the one getting the first hit on the ball," Sharapova said. "That's not really the way I should have played."

Her performance was riddled with unforced errors and five double-faults, and she lasted little more than an hour on center court.

Sharapova trailed, 5-0, in the second set, before holding for 5-1. Ivanovic closed the win with her fifth ace. Sharapova had 25 unforced errors to 11 for Ivanovic and hit only four baseline winners.

On Wednesday, Novak Djokovic advanced to the men's semifinals by beating Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, setting up a match against two-time defending champion Rafael Nadal.

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