Just a quick wrap today: Justine Henin was defeated on the terre battue of Roland Garros for the first time since 2004 on Monday, falling in three sets to Sam Stosur: 2-6, 6-1, 4-6. “I just wanted so much that the adventure could keep going,” Justine said afterwards, though she insisted that her loss was no upset, despite her history at the French Open and her recent win over Stosur in Stuttgart.
Q. You say it’s a transition year, but when you came here, did you see yourself as a real possible champion this year in Roland Garros?
JUSTINE HENIN: No, I didn’t feel it this way. I mean, all the expectations are coming from the outside, you know. Everyone wants to see me as the level that I was and to compete really, but the confidence I got, you know, in 2007, it took many years to be at that level in terms of, I mean, mental and confidence.
No, I was really here to play match after match, and that’s what I did. I keep some positive things from this tournament, but I didn’t consider myself as the favorite. If I could win one more match or two more matches you can start dreaming, but that is not the case anymore.
Perhaps we saw that dream flicker and die when Justine threw her racquet to the court after taking a fall in the second set. It was strange – have you ever seen her do that before?
It was interesting to hear Stosur mention that same moment as point of positivity for her:
Q. You managed to keep it calm out there. There was a moment when second set Justine threw her racquet down. Is that something you can feed off when someone shows frustration with what you’re doing?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, I didn’t actually know that she fell over. Once I saw her throw her racquet down, I assumed something had happened. And, yeah, it’s not very often that the racquet leaves the hand of someone like her.
So to able to see that probably did give me that little bit of extra lift and realize I had her rattled a bit, even though I was behind on the scoreboard. It’s not always easy to take everything in that’s happening on the court. I try and stay focused on myself. But when you do pick up little things, it can help.
So the Tennis Gods giveth and the Tennis Gods taketh away. Our dreams of a Serena vs. Justine Roland Garros grudge match are gone, but Stosur vs. Serena could be the match of the tournament so far. Serena enjoys a 3-1 head-to-head against Stosur, with her latest victory a dominant 6-4, 6-2 beat down in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open. But Serena raised her game to the stratosphere for that one, and the clay surface evens the match-up for Sam. Taking recent history into account, Sam made it to the semifinals here just last year and Serena hasn’t made it past the quarters in Paris since 2003.
After taking just an hour to beat Shahar Peer Monday, Serena got downright gushy about her quarterfinal opponent:
Q. Tennis is a sport of rivalries, Serena. Everyone in tennis was looking forward to your possible match with Justine, but now that it’s Sam, does that change your perspective? And in some ways, were you sort of preparing in your mind for a match with your rival, Justine?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. You can never underestimate anyone, and Sam is actually a wonderful clay court player. I think she proved that last year, 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.
Q. Talk about her game. She’s really been coming on, including on clay.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, she’s amazing. She’s fast, strong, and has a great serve. You know, 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.
Serena was not so impressed with Sam last summer, when the Australian beat her in Stanford. Serena sniffed afterwards: “She had a lot of lucky shots. She’s a good framer.” (via The Guardian.) A genuine change of heart or some gentle mind games? I’d be a little nervous if I was Sam.
In other women’s results: Jelena Jankovic continued her strong play, taking out Daniela Hantuchova, 6-4, 6-2. Sam’s countrywoman, Jarmila Groth, couldn’t get it done vs. Yaroslava Shvedova. Shvedova is ranked 36 in the world, but I couldn’t pick her out of a line up until today. Here she is, in case you were wondering:
Quick note on the ladies doubles results for Monday: Serena and Venus are into the doubles semifinals after beating Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Kirilenko this afternoon. Serena’s victim in singles, Shahar Peer, bounced back with partner Monica Niculescu to win their third round match. Petrova/Stosur, both in the singles quarterfinals, retired against the Bondarenko sisters. The flashy pair of Dulko/Pennetta are out in the quarterfinals to Huber/Medina Garrigues, who will take on the Williams sisters next. Liezel Huber recently called out the Williams sisters for not being devoted to Fed Cup – so this match could get interesting.
Instead of getting frustrated when she fell, Justine should have pulled a Ginepri and used it as an opportunity to get some fitness work in:
It didn’t quite work out for Ginepri, who lost to Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-2, 1-6, 2-6. Djokovic takes on Jurgen Melzer next, who beat Gabashvili on Monday in four sets. Rafael Nadal defeated Thomaz Bellucci in straights to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Nicolas Almagro (def. Verdasco in four.) This marks Rafa’s 200th career victory on clay. Vamos!
Federer fans who are nervous about Roger’s quarterfinal vs. Soderling should take Nadal’s words to heart:
Q. Robin Soderling is ready. He is going to fight back strongly. So what about Soderling’s chances? What are the odds?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t really know. He has chances, I think. I think he’s not the favorite, but I think he can win. I think he’s not yet lost a set. I think he’s going to play well.
We can say the same about Federer. I think it’s been his 23rd or 24th semifinals. He’s not going to lose this, I think.