PARIS -- Lindsay Davenport ran out of comebacks, losing
Tuesday to Frenchwoman Mary Pierce in the quarterfinals at the
Pierce beat Davenport 6-3, 6-2 and advanced to her first Grand
Slam semifinal since winning at Roland Garros in 2000.
No. 1-ranked Davenport had rallied after dropping the first
set in three of her four previous matches, including a win over Kim
Clijsters. But Pierce raced to a 5-0 lead in the second set, then
overcame some shaky moments near the finish.
"I'm really shocked," said Pierce, seeded 21st. "I did not
think at all I would win this match as easily as I did. I beat the
No. 1 in two sets."
Davenport again came up short at the only major event she has
yet to win, but it was her best showing at Roland Garros since
1999. She was the tournament's lone remaining American, male or
Justine Henin-Hardenne's wide variety of sharply angled shots had Maria Sharapova staggering across the clay in vain pursuit. With drop shots, deft volleys and picturesque backhands, Henin-Hardenne kept Sharapova on the run Tuesday and easily
advanced to the French Open semifinals, winning 6-4, 6-2.
It was a remarkable show of stamina by Henin-Hardenne less than
24 hours after she overcame two match points to win a 3-hour,
15-minute marathon against Svetlana Kuznetsova.
"My game is probably better than it has ever been," said
Henin-Hardenne, whose three Grand Slam titles include the 2003
French Open. "I was feeling great. ... I changed all my shots a
lot, and that helped me to win the match pretty easily."
The 2003 Roland Garros champion ran her winning streak to 22
matches, all on clay, and improved to 25-1 since returning in March
from a seven-month layoff because of a blood virus and knee injury.
"She can produce a huge variety of shots," Sharapova said.
"On clay she has the time to do that, and I think that's what
makes her so dangerous."
Henin-Hardenne's opponent Thursday will be No. 7-seeded Nadia
Petrova, who reached the semifinals at Roland Garros for the second
time by beating 17-year-old Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 6-2. Petrova is the highest remaining seed after Sharapova's and Davenport's losses.
Pierce will play another Russian, 29-year-old Elena
Likhovtseva, who advanced to a Grand Slam semifinal for the
first time in her 12-year career by beating 15-year-old Sesil
Karatantcheva 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Likhovtseva, seeded 16th, has never been beyond the third round
before in 10 previous appearances at Roland Garros.
Pierce took charge of her baseline duel against Davenport from
the start, racing to a 4-0 lead. She finished with 28 winners,
repeatedly finding the open court against slow-footed
Pierce needed 11 match points to beat Patty Schnyder in the
previous round, but this time she required only three. After she
double-faulted to fall behind love-30 in the final game, Davenport
blew two easy putaways to squander any momentum.
On the final point, Davenport dumped a backhand into the net.
"Those things just weren't going in today," Davenport said.
"Missing balls on top of her playing well it was a bad combo."
Henin-Hardenne, seeded 10th but the pre-tournament favorite with
oddsmakers, has been bothered in recent weeks by a sore back and
was pushed to three sets three times in the early rounds. But she
dominated Sharapova with a polished performance.
"Today when I woke up, I felt I had nothing to lose," said
Henin-Hardenne, who conceded that nerves affected her in earlier
rounds. "I didn't have the same kind of pressure. I'm playing a
very good French Open. I hope I can keep going."
The Belgian totaled 22 winners and just 17 unforced errors while
losing serve only once. When Sharapova sent a backhand long on
match point, Henin-Hardenne grinned, screamed and punched the air.
"She just has a lot of confidence," Sharapova said. "You hit
a big shot, and she can come up with a tougher shot. She made great
drop shots at important points, and that comes with confidence."
No. 2-ranked Sharapova came up short in her bid to overtake Davenport at Roland Garros and claim the No. 1 spot for the first time.
"Every loss is disappointing," Sharapova said. "I'm sure you
hear that from every loser. But that's the way it goes. I can't win
Likhovtseva rallied against unseeded Karatantcheva, who
upset Venus Williams in the third round and was seeking to become
the youngest French Open semifinalist since 1990. Karatantcheva was
two games from victory leading 4-3 in the second set, but her serve
and groundstrokes suddenly began to misfire, allowing Likhovtseva
to sweep the next three games and even the match.
The third set developed into a series of conservative
groundstrokes and long points -- the kind of rallies reminiscent of
the Chris Evert era. Karatantcheva hit some weary shots down the
stretch, and Likhovtseva won the final eight points.
"She played great," Karatantcheva said, "and I don't think I
really believed in myself today. I hope I have more quarterfinals
to play, and I hope I win then."
Playing the first match on center court in hazy, 65-degree
weather, young Karatantcheva showed no evidence of nerves at the
outset and raced to a 3-0 lead. She ripped a backhand winner
crosscourt to close out the first set in 34 minutes.
Likhovtseva was less reluctant to move forward, which helped
turn the match in her favor. She totaled 29 winners to just 16 for
Karatantcheva, who committed seven double-faults.
"I was really nervous at the beginning," Likhovtseva said. "I
just tried to enjoy the game. I fought, and I think I played
Ivanovic hit just 10 winners and had 33 unforced errors against
Petrova, who has lost just 33 games and one set in her five
Petrova also reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2003
before losing to Kim Clijsters. Despite her No. 7 seed, the 22-year-old Russian has yet to win a WTA Tour title.
"I've been already in a semifinal once," Petrova said. "So to
do it the second time, it's a little bit easier because I know what
it takes to be there, and I know how I should be on the court to
win the match. You know, all this crowd, all those expectation,
it's not easy. You have to learn to be quiet on yourself and put
all the outside influence away."