Henin cruises at French Open
By STEVEN WINE
PARIS — Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin set up a third-round showdown at the French Open yesterday by winning matches suspended overnight because of darkness.
Sharapova finished off Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, 6-3, 6-3, and four-time champion Henin beat Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic, 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, while defending women's champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was upset by fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko.
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."
The Russian 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."
Henin, seeded 22nd, 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."
Venus Williams reached the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time since 2006 by beating No. 26 Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-4.
The No. 6-seeded Kuznetsova, who saved four match points in the second round, lost to No. 30 Kirilenko, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. The upset knocks Kuznetsova out of the top 10 for the first time in four years.
Serena Williams and Nadal took the court on a sunny, cool morning and were done before lunch. The top-ranked Williams won nine consecutive games and advanced to the third round by beating Julia Goerges of Germany, 6-1, 6-1. Four-time champion Nadal lost serve only once and beat Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
"We're having so much fun at this time of my career, and you know, we just feel good," Serena said. "We're doing the best we can, and we're enjoying every moment."
The top-ranked Federer reached the fourth round by beating qualifier Julian Reister of Germany, 6-4, 6-0, 6-4.
"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."