French Flair Prevails in Paris Quarters
Published Feburary 12, 2009 12:00
PARIS, France - Act of atonement or just happy accident, France's female tennis stars have bounced back from their 0-5 Fed Cup defeat to Italy in the best possible style. On Friday, four of them - two seeds, a qualifier and a wildcard - will contest the quarterfinals of the Open GDF SUEZ - and the good news for local fans is that none must play a compatriot.
First to advance on Thursday was fifth seed Alizé Cornet, who recovered from a slow start to beat wildcard Daniela Hantuchova, 16 64 62. For a while it seemed 25-year-old Hantuchova would avenge her three set loss to Cornet at last month's Australian Open, but after Cornet broke towards the end of the second set her confidence only grew. Although Hantuchova leveled at 2-2 in the final set after dropping her serve early, the teen - who had won just six of her previous 20 indoor matches - kept the mental edge to secure the win.
In the quarters Cornet faces No.2 seed Jelena Jankovic, who cruised to a 60 31 lead against Li Na, only to unravel in the wake of a string of unforced errors that helped the determined Chinese player back into the match. Perhaps this wasn't such a surprise though, for Li had beaten the 23-year-old Serb in their four previous hardcourt meetings.
"Some players, regardless of their ranking, give me more difficulties than others," said Jankovic of Li, playing her first tournament after missing the Australian circuit with injury. "Her game and her style of play don't really suit mine, she doesn't allow me to do what I want to do.
"In the first set, I was dominating but then I lost my first serve percentage before regaining confidence," she added after recovering to win, 60 36 62.
Top seed and two-time champion Serena Williams had much less trouble against Croatian qualifier Karolina Sprem, not giving away a single point on her own serve during her 61 62 romp, while eighth seed Amélie Mauresmo powered past unorthodox Romanian Monica Niculescu by the same scoreline.
"I was pleased with the match, even though it had a slightly different feel to the one yesterday," said Mauresmo, twice a champion at the French capital's indoor event. "It was a longer match as well, despite the fact the scores were almost identical. The rallies were longer and the games were more competitive."
After clawing back a 4-2 deficit in the first set, No.3 seed Elena Dementieva suppressed the challenge of 17-year-old world No.45 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 64 62, and afterwards acknowledged her compatriot's potential.
"I think she's very talented, but she needs a bit more experience, especially when playing against Top 10 players," Dementieva said. "She was really close in that first set and we had a good fight. She was very aggressive on the court and she has a very solid game for such a young age."
In the final match of the day, French wildcard Natalie Dechy spoiled what had been shaping up as a perfect day for the seeds, when she came from a set down to defeat Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder, the No.6 seed, 63 46 63 in just under two hours.
In addition to Jankovic versus Cornet, Friday's schedule sees Williams face French qualifier Emilie Loit (who beat Kaia Kanepi on Wednesday) for a semifinal spot, while Mauresmo plays Agnieszka Radwanska - who secured her berth by beating Alisa Kleybanova on Wednesday night - and Dechy tackles Dementieva.
Cara Black and Liezel Huber, the top seeds in the doubles, scored a hard-fought first round win against Iveta Benesova and Alicja Rosolska, 76(5) 64. Playing a round ahead, No.2 seeds Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond won their quarterfinal against Eva Hrdinova and Ipek Senoglu in a match tie-break, 46 63 108.