Amélie Flies the Flag in Paris Semis
Published Feburary 13, 2009 12:00
PARIS, France - Four Frenchwomen went up against higher-ranked opponents in front of their home crowd in the quarterfinals of the Open GDF SUEZ on Friday, and while three succumbed a certain former No.1 came through with flying colors, as Amélie Mauresmo routed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Mauresmo, the No.8 seed at the Premier event, reached the semifinals with a 62 60 steamrolling of No.4 seed Radwanska, winning 11 straight games from 2-1 down in the first set for a resonant 68-minute win over the crafty Polish phenom.
Ranked No.1 in the world for 39 weeks during the 2004 and 2006 seasons, it has been a difficult road for Mauresmo since, as she now finds herself just outside the Top 20. But some impressive results already this year - including beating Ana Ivanovic en route to the semifinals of Brisbane and another semifinal run in the French capital this week - might signal a revival for one of the game's greats.
This will be the 29-year-old Mauresmo's eighth semifinal appearance here, having won five of her previous seven semis. She captured the title in 2001 and 2006, finished runner-up in 1999, 2003 and 2005 (losing those first two finals to Serena Williams and the third to Dinara Safina) and fell in the semis twice, in 2002 (to Venus Williams) and 2007 (to Nadia Petrova).
The other three Frenchwomen in action weren't as lucky. The first match of the day was by far the toughest, as No.2 seed Jelena Jankovic stormed back from 3-1 down in the third set to beat No.5 seed Alizé Cornet, 57 64 64. No.3 seed Elena Dementieva followed with a 63 62 win over wildcard Nathalie Dechy, before No.1 seed Serena Williams beat qualifier Emilie Loit in straight sets as well, 64 61.
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Jankovic appeared to be down and out against the feisty Cornet, as she smacked an angled backhand pass to break for 3-1 in the decider, but the errors began creeping into the Nice native's game, and Jankovic - who was ranked No.1 in the world until after a fourth round loss at the Australian Open - won five of the last six games of the match to become the Open GDF SUEZ's first semifinalist.
"I just fought and played one point at a time, and I managed to win this match," Jankovic said. "It was not easy playing a French player with a French crowd, so a lot of things were not in my favor, but I managed to come out a winner.
"She's one of the best movers on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. She runs from corner to corner like not many other girls can. She's not going to give you many points. To win points you really need to go after the ball and really put pressure on her. Then you can get short balls. That's what worked for me today."
Dementieva's win over Dechy was her 499th professional singles match win, and with a win in the semifinals - although it will be tough, as she is slotted to face Williams - she would be the 27th woman in the Open Era to crack 500 victories.
Williams' match with Loit was a rematch of their first round marathon at the Australian Open six years ago, as Williams rallied from a set down and won the second and third sets 7-6 and 7-5 to prevail. She famously went on to win the title of course, one of her current collection of 10 Grand Slam singles titles.
"It was definitely a tricky match," said the 27-year-old. "It was definitely easier than last time. I don't play too many lefties, so it was good to get through. You definitely have to get used to it. It was good for me to work on those low balls, it can only help me in the future. I thought she played really, really well today."
After the match, Loit told the French press that Williams being No.1 in the world was very good for women's tennis, giving her praise for her accomplishments, her game, her personality and the pressure you put out on the court.
"I think that's an unbelievably nice thing to say," Williams reacted. "I never think about whether it's good for women's tennis for me to be No.1, but obviously I'm happy to be No.1. It's really cool. Most of all, I love to win big tournaments and just tournaments in general. Obviously, this is one of my favorites. Hopefully I can continue to be a good ambassador for women's tennis."
Williams leads Dementieva 5-3 in their head-to-head. Williams won their first five matches in straight sets before Dementieva went on a winning streak at Moscow in the fall of 2007, the Olympics last summer and in Sydney in January; later in January, Williams snapped that losing streak with a win at the Australian Open.
Mauresmo has won five of her previous six encounters with Jankovic, but two of those wins came after the Serb retired mid-match. They also haven't played since Dubai in 2007, almost exactly two years ago.