Samantha Stosur brought Justine Henin's six-year unbeaten streak at the Roland Garros to an end with a fourth-round win yesterday. Henin's last defeat at the French Open came in 2004 when she lost to Tathiana Garbin in the second round. Since then, she had won three titles on the trot before missing the 2008 and 2009 tournaments during a self-imposed exile.
The Belgian, who returned to the tour in January after 20 months of retirement, was on a 24-match winning streak on Parisian clay going into the match against the Australian and she seemed to be heading for a quarter-final showdown with Serena Williams, the world No 1, after cruising through the first set in 32 minutes. Stosur, however, turned on the engines to win the next two sets to triumph 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 and dash hopes of an appetising repeat of the Australian Open final, where Serena defeated Henin.
"I can't really believe it," said Stosur in a courtside interview. "[After going behind] I told myself to just keep going. I believed in myself." After dropping her serve twice in the opening set, Stosur, 26, decimated Henin with her power game in the second after getting an early break. In the decider, the Australian forced a service break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead, but surrendered it immediately with two double faults as the fans got behind Henin.
Stosur was down 0-30 in the eighth game, but fought back to keep her serve and then broke Henin for a 5-4 lead to serve for the match. Henin's exit leaves Serena as the only former champion in the last eight and the 2002 winner is keen to get her second French Open, now that she owns an apartment in Paris. "This year my game is better, I hope I am going to win," she told the crowd in French after a dominant 6-2, 6-2 over Shahar Peer in the fourth round yesterday. "I live here, I love Paris, it's a wonderful city."
Peer bolted off the blocks, winning the first seven points of the match, but inexplicably dropped her serve in the second game from 40-love. Serena took over from there, blasting 24 winners to finish the game in 67 minutes. "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 American said in her post match interview. "Hopefully I turn it up again."
Serena, however, is expecting a much stiffer battle against Stosur, when she will be fighting for her first entry into the last-four since 2003. "You can never underestimate anyone, and Sam [Stosur] is actually a wonderful clay court player," she added. "I think she proved that last year [in reaching the French Open semis], and this year I think she's only lost twice on the clay. So she's someone you can't overlook. She has a good chance to go all the way. She's fast, strong, and has a great serve. I don't know if she has a real weakness.
"She plays a real all around game, so I think that's what makes her like a real modern, really good player. I [will] definitely have to play well. She's no pushover, that's for sure. She's beaten me before, so I have to be on my best game." * Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi