Tennis: Sharapova, Henin advance to French Open showdown
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
PARIS — Maria Sharapova needed only five games Friday to advance at the French Open. Her next match will likely be a lot tougher — she faces four-time champion Justine Henin.
Sharapova and Henin set up Saturday's third-round showdown by winning matches suspended overnight because of darkness. Sharapova finished off Kirsten Flipkens, 6-3, 6-3, and Henin beat Klara Zakopalova 6-3, 6-3.
A schedule backlog caused by rain created a parade of champions on the sixth day of the tournament. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Venus and Serena Williams were among those who advanced.
Now the champions start playing each other. Henin has a 6-3 record against Sharapova.
"We've had some great matches in the past," Sharapova said. "I've had some tough losses and great wins. I look forward to this one."
Sharapova won their most recent meeting in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Australian Open. That was Henin's last Grand Slam match before she retired.
Now the Belgian is mounting a career comeback and playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2007.
"It's going to be an interesting match," Henin said. "Comes very early, of course, third round, but I expect a big fight as we always had in the past. It's going to be very exciting to play her again in the second career. The motivation is going to be really high just to keep going in this tournament."
Seeded 22nd, Henin has French Open winning streaks of 23 matches and 39 sets. The No. 12-seeded Sharapova is seeking the only Grand Slam title she has yet to win, and she said she's becoming more comfortable on clay.
"I really do enjoy it," the Russian said. "I've learned a lot playing on it the last few years. It doesn't affect me as it did many years ago, because I knew I couldn't last quite as long as I feel that I can now."
While Henin and Sharapova won quickly, Serena Williams and Nadal did as well, taking the court on a sunny, cool morning. Both were done before lunch.
The top-ranked Williams won nine consecutive games and advanced to the third round by beating Julia Goerges 6-1, 6-1. Four-time champion Nadal lost serve only once and beat Horacio Zeballos 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
Williams won in 55 minutes and said such a rout can help her in later matches.
"I can learn a lot, like, 'OK, what am I doing today? How can I get them to all be like that?'" she said. "Those are the questions that I ask and I try to answer."
Venus Williams reached the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time since 2006 by beating No. 26 Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-4. Serena and Venus are seeded 1-2 and wouldn't meet until the final.
Venus again wore the black lacy corset that has created the tournament's biggest buzz, and she said she'll retire the outfit after the tournament.
"I may be wearing all the same boring underclothes as the other people," said Williams, who designed the corset. "I mean, as great as the design is, I really want the focus to be on the tennis. So obviously wearing lace on the court will still be an amazing innovation, but I'll have to find a way to try to make it a little less noteworthy."
Nadal advanced in 1 hour, 45 minutes. He has lost only 13 games through two rounds and next faces two-time Grand Slam champion Lleyton Hewitt.
"I feel like I've put myself in a position my whole career that's it's taken the best players most times in a Grand Slam to beat me," Hewitt said. "Hopefully, I can give him a good match."
Hewitt earned his 30th career five-set win against Denis Istomin, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.
The top-ranked Federer reached the fourth round by beating qualifier Julian Reister 6-4, 6-0, 6-4. Federer never faced a break point and lost only five points on his first serve.
"I haven't played top guys yet, but dangerous players who are skillful on this surface," Federer said. "With my own form, I'm very happy."
Federer will next play fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. Federer and Wawrinka teamed up to win the gold medal in doubles at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Djokovic, a two-time semifinalist seeded third, overcame nine double-faults for a second-round win over Kei Nishikori, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Andy Murray, seeded fourth, moved into the fourth round by beating Marcos Baghdatis 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.
Robby Ginepri reached the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time in two years, but fellow Americans John Isner and Mardy Fish lost.
The unseeded Ginepri rallied past Potito Starace 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Isner, seeded 17th, was beaten in the third round by Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Fish lost to Ivan Ljubicic, 6-2, 6-7 (8), 4-6, 6-2, 10-8, in a second-round marathon that took more than 4½ hours to complete over two days.
On the women's side, Russian qualifier Anastasia Pivovarova, ranked 187th, upset No. 25-seeded Zheng Jie of China 6-4, 6-3. Unseeded American Jill Craybas lost to No. 29 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-1.