Venus no match for solid Petrova
By Howard Fendrich
PARIS — So much for the thought that this might be the year Venus Williams would make a strong showing at the French Open.
So much for the thought that she and her younger sister Serena, the tournament's two top-seeded women, could deliver another all-Williams Grand Slam final.
Displaying little of the spark or strokes she regularly produces on grass and hard courts, and playing little like someone with the tour's best 2010 winning percentage, Williams stalled on the red clay of Roland Garros yet again yesterday, exiting in the fourth round with a 6-4, 6-3 loss to No. 19 Nadia Petrova.
"I don't think the conditions are always ideal here. ... You might not be used to it or you might not get a good bounce," said the No. 2-seeded Williams, who began the day 29-4 this season, including 15-2 on clay. "That's just the way this tournament goes."
For her, anyway. The American's seven major titles all came at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open, and only once has she made it to the semifinals in 14 French Open appearances — back in 2002, when she lost to Serena in the championship match.
Williams complained about the temperatures in the 50s and swirling winds that reached 15 mph, and wore a long-sleeved top over her much-discussed black lace dress. She didn't exactly heap praise on Petrova, now a win away from reaching her third French Open semifinal.
"I don't think she did anything super special," Williams said, "but she just played a little bit more consistently."
Actually, Petrova concurred with that assessment, calling her own play "solid."
"I came up with the good shots when it was necessary," she said. "That's it. I don't think I've done anything spectacular today."
Petrova will face No. 5 Elena Dementieva in an all-Russian quarterfinal. Dementieva ended the surprising stay of 131st-ranked qualifier Chanelle Scheepers, the first South African woman in the fourth round at Roland Garros since 1997, by winning 6-1, 6-3.
No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark will play No. 17 Francesca Schiavone of Italy in another quarterfinal. Wozniacki, runner-up at last year's U.S. Open, scraped together a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2 victory over No. 14 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, and Schiavone eliminated No. 30 Maria Kirilenko of Russia, 6-4, 6-4.
None of those encounters featured the big names or big-stage experience of the third-round match between four-time champion Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova, which resumed yesterday after being suspended because of darkness a night earlier.
Sharapova began the third set strongly, taking 11 of the first 15 points. But when facing an 0-2, love-40 deficit, Henin began playing more aggressively and swung the momentum, taking four consecutive games on the way to winning 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, her 24th consecutive victory at the French Open.
The Belgian will be forced to play for the fifth day in a row today, against No. 7 Samantha Stosur of Australia.
"I know it's going to be difficult," Henin said.
There was little suspense in men's action yesterday, although there was a mild upset: No. 15 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic beat No. 4 Andy Murray of Britain, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, to reach the French Open quarterfinals for the first time. Berdych now meets No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, who advanced when No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France quit because of a hip injury.
Defending champion Roger Federer won in straight sets for the fourth consecutive round, dismissing No. 20 Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-2, in a matchup between buddies who paired up to win a doubles gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Federer's next opponent, No. 5 Robin Soderling of Sweden, dispatched No. 10 Marin Cilic of Croatia, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
$21.1 MILLION FRENCH OPEN
At Stade Roland Garros
Roger Federer (1), Switzerland, def. Stanislas Wawrinka (20), Switzerland, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-2.
Robin Soderling (5), Sweden, def. Marin Cilic (10), Croatia, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
Mikhail Youzhny (11), Russia, def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (8), France, 6-2, retired.
Tomas Berdych (15), Czech Republic, def. Andy Murray (4), Britain, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
Justine Henin (22), Belgium, def. Maria Sharapova (12), Russia, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Elena Dementieva (5), Russia, def. Chanelle Scheepers, South Africa, 6-1, 6-3.
Francesca Schiavone (17), Italy, def. Maria Kirilenko (30), Russia, 6-4, 6-4.
Nadia Petrova (19), Russia, def. Venus Williams (2), United States, 6-4, 6-3.
Caroline Wozniacki (3), Denmark, def. Flavia Pennetta (14), Italy, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2.