Kuznetsova Ousts Henin, Sharapova Wins
Published January 21, 2011 12:00
MELBOURNE, Australia - Justine Henin's comeback to the WTA after six months away came to an abrupt end at the Australian Open Friday, as she fell to Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets in the third round, 64 76(8).
Henin, who made it all the way to the final here last year and was the No.11 seed this year, had won 16 of her 18 previous meetings with Kuznetsova but was too erratic this time, with a -21 differential of winners to errors (20 to 41); Kuznetsova wasn't at her best either but was a more contained -10 (24 to 34).
Henin fought until the bitter end, saving three match points in the tie-break - two with big winners, one with an unreturnable serve - before Kuznetsova managed to convert on her fourth match point for the upset on Rod Laver Arena.
"I had a perfect match: 64 54 and serving. Then the nerves came," Kuznetsova said. "You try to take your time, but it's not working. I had to fight against myself and against Justine, so I'm pleased. I was quite lucky actually. The tie-break was like a lottery, it was crazy. I'm happy I won in two sets."
Kuznetsova finished the match off with a big forehand that smacked right on the baseline. "On match point I didn't play safe. I almost missed the ball. I just got tight. I kind of didn't play the right things in the right moments."
"It was another match, another situation for both of us. The past is the past," Henin said when asked about the head-to-head. "I had to be focused on what happened today. I did beat her many times, but I knew it would be tough."
Henin had been 27-0 in her career in Grand Slam third round matches.
Next up for Kuznetsova is No.6 seed Francesca Schiavone. Kuznetsova leads their head-to-head, 8-4; although Schiavone has won two of their last three meetings, Kuznetsova is 6-0 against the Italian on hardcourts.
Also winning through on Friday afternoon were No.8 seed Victoria Azarenka, who beat Chanelle Scheepers, 63 63; No.9 seed Li Na, who improved to 8-0 on the season with a 62 61 victory over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova; and last but certainly not least No.14 seed Maria Sharapova, who lost the first set and fought off an impressive late surge to beat Julia Goerges, 46 64 64.
Sharapova led 4-0 in the third set before Goerges won four of the next five games, but Sharapova served it out, capping the win with her seventh ace.
"It seemed like she could hit a winner from every part of the court," Sharapova said of Goerges. "I played a really sloppy game on my serve up 3-2 in the first set. Just made too many errors. Then she gained all the confidence in the world and I didn't play well throughout the first set, even though I was up a break.
"Most important thing is I fought for my chances. I stepped it up and started hitting a little bit deeper. As the match went on, I felt a lot better."