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1 Jun 2010

Dethroning the queen

Aussie Sam Stosur ended claycourt queen Justine Henin’s dreams of a triumphant French Open return. 

The fourth round match-up between No.7 seed Sam Stosur and No.22 seed Justine Henin is quite easily the most exciting match witnessed at the 2010 French Open so far. Despite having the best claycourt record 17-2 and a higher ranking, the Queenslander was considered the underdog next to the four-time champion. Sam Stosur has snapped one of the longest French Open winning streaks of all time (24 matches), beating Justine Henin in a thriller, 26 61 64.

Initial stages would suggest that Henin would run away with the match as she claimed a routine first set, 6-2; but from there the all-court attacking game that took Stosur all the way to the semifinals here last year began hitting its mark.

And in the third and deciding set, the Belgian started to spur herself on by shouting “Allez” on every point she won, including unforced errors from her opponent. During the eighth game, Henin clearly went overboard causing Stosur to give an extended glare at Henin for her questionable sportsmanship.

The Aussie channelled the energy into her tennis and claimed the next six points in commanding fashion and in the process, wrestled back the initiative of the deciding set from Henin. The last couple of games saw Henin fade quickly as her signature single-handed backhand deserted her, just like her script for a fairytale return to her beloved Parisian claycourts.

The four-time champion showed flashes of her old brilliance en route to the fourth round, her sublime backhand occasionally sparked and the old fire still burns inside. But she never quite scaled the heights she reached when completing a rare hat-trick of titles here in 2007.

Was Henin’s lost to in-form Stosur all unexpected? No at all, given the patchy form she showed in her third round victory over Maria Sharapova. We were almost convinced that if that match was not suspended by bad light, the Russian who herself is on a comeback trail after yet another injury would have a sniff at victory.

Looks like the Belgian has more than just poor sportsmanship to worry about if she is serious about making this comeback worthwhile.

Awaiting Stosur in the quarterfinals will be No.1 seed and 2002 French Open champion Serena Williams. Earlier in the day, Williams faced the player who had won the most overall matches on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year - Shahar Peer - and eased past the No.18 seed with little drama, 62 62.

Williams and Stosur have played four times before, with Williams leading the head-to-head, 3-1. But Stosur had match points in one of Williams' wins, a 63 67(4) 75 victory at Sydney last year, and this will be their first meeting on clay.

"You can never underestimate anyone, and Sam is a wonderful clay court player," Williams said. "She proved that last year, and this year she has only lost twice on clay. She has a good chance to go all the way. She's amazing."

Clearly, papa Richard Williams would agree with Serena on that after he watched Stosur dismantled the queen of clay.

Reader's Comments

1. 2010-06-02 10:08  
It was quite an unexpected win from Sam. She's not really consistent in her games. Now I'm looking forward to her quarterfinal match against Serena... Not going to be an easy one but I would love to see her through to the final for the first time in RG.

Go Sam!!!
2. 2010-06-02 10:27  
Go Aussie Sam! fully support her for the French title!

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