Mon, Jun 04, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Serena Williams defeats Safina in French Open

AP AND AFP , PARIS

Serena Williams returns the ball to Dinara Safina during their match at the French Open at Roland Garros stadium in Paris yesterday. Williams won 6-2, 6-3.

PHOTO: AP

Serena Williams sounded an ominous warning to her French Open rivals yesterday by racing into the last eight with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Russia's Dinara Safina.

The US player needed just 77 minutes to wrap up the fourth round tie against a shell-shocked Safina who was powerless in the face of the Williams onslaught.

The win could set up a potential quarter-final showdown against title-holder and top seed Justine Henin tomorrow.

The Belgian was scheduled to play her fourth round tie against Austria's Sybille Bammer later yesterday.

Williams blasted out of the blocks against Safina, the 10th seed and sister of Marat Safin, the former men's world No. 1.

She broke her opponent's first two service games to go 4-0 up and wrapped up the set 6-2 in 36 minutes.

The second set was a different story with both players struggling to hold on to their serves and Safina, a quarter-finalist here last year, at times matching Williams for power off her groundstrokes.

The pair exchanged two service breaks each to get to 3-3 but in the following game Williams made the difference with a third service break before moving 5-3 ahead.

There was no way back for Safina who had her service broken for the sixth time in the match as Williams returned to the French Open quarter-finals for the first time since 2004, the last time she played at Roland Garros.

Amelie Mauresmo was unable to do what another two-time Grand Slam champion hampered by an injury, Maria Sharapova, managed on Saturday: Deal with pain, set aside a lack of proper preparation and beat a less-experienced opponent.

The fifth-seeded Mauresmo blew a 3-0 lead in each set and lost to No. 25 Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-6 (3), the latest in a string of early exits at Roland Garros for the Frenchwoman.

On the mens' side, double defending champion Rafael Nadal took his Roland Garros record to 17-0 and celebrated his birthday in style by reaching the French Open fourth round on Saturday.

Nadal, 21, eased past compatriot Albert Montanes 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 and will face former world No. 1 and former Wimbledon and US Open winner, Lleyton Hewitt for a place in the quarter-finals.

Hewitt, the 14th seed, defeated 20th seeded Finn Jarkko Nieminen 1-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 to set up a repeat of last year's last 16 clash, which Nadal won in four sets on his way to a second successive title.

Nadal insisted he won't underestimate the gutsy Australian against whom he trails 4-2 in career meetings and especially after their most recent meeting in the Hamburg semi-finals where the Spaniard dropped the first set before going through.

"Against Hewitt, it will be difficult," Nadal said.

If Nadal comes through the test against Hewitt, he could eventually meet 20-year-old Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

But the highly-rated, sixth seeded Serb struggled to reach the last 16 and needed more than four hours to clinch a 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 win over French wildcard Olivier Patience.

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