Thu, May 22, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Taiwan's Chan upsets third-seed Razzano

AGENCIES , PARIS AND STRASBOURG, FRANCE

Taiwan's Chan Yung-jan lost just one game en route to upsetting third-seeded Virginie Razzano of France on Tuesday and advancing to the second round of the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

The 18-year-old topped Razzano 6-1, 6-0, in the clay-court tournament billed as a warm-up to the French Open starting next week.

Among other seeds, No. 5 Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia cruised 6-3, 6-1 over Germany’s Sabine Lisicki. Eighth-seed Yan Zi of China beat Italy’s Mara Santangelo, who retired at 5-6 in the first set with a left foot injury.

Edina Gallovits of Romania also advanced after Ukraine’s Julia Vakulenko retired with a right wrist injury with Gallovits leading 6-1, 4-1.

In other matches, Ukranian Tatiana Perebiynis topped American Ashley Harkleroad 6-2, 6-1.

Seldom has the French Open got underway with so much uncertainty shrouding the women’s game.

Justine Henin’s shock retirement last week saw the year’s second Grand Slam tournament lose its queen and hot favorite, the little Belgian having triumphed here in four of the last five years including the last three straight.

Who will take over her tiara in Paris is anything but clear with the top candidates all struggling to a greater or lesser degree with a combination of injuries, loss of form and sheer fatigue.

In Henin’s absence, Maria Sharapova will inherit the top seeding and just a few weeks ago, the tall Russian, who once said she was like “a cow on ice” when playing on clay, looked like she could mount a serious challenge for the first time.

But her storming start to the season, including a first clay-court title at Amelia Island, was badly stalled in Rome last week when she had to pull out of her semi-final with Jelena Jankovic due to a strained calf muscle.

There are serious doubts over whether her fragile physical state can withstand two weeks of grind and grit at Roland Garros.

Sharapova, who reached the semi-finals here last year for the first time in five attempts, like Roger Federer says that Wimbledon will always remain her top priority, but like the Swiss magician, she is desperate to win in Paris to complete a career Grand Slam.

“I will be trying my utmost to win [the French Open] this year or in the years to come as I need it to complete the set,” she said.

“There is a great tradition at Roland Garros, the fans are so into it, sometimes they can be a bit hard to take, but it’s the only Grand Slam tournament with a Latin public who love to make themselves heard,” she said. “I’m not a specialist on clay, but on the other hand you can’t say it’s a surface that I am foreign to.”

“A lot of the youth tournaments when I was growing up in the United States were on clay and the same when I started on the secondary ITF circuits in Europe,” she said.

Serena Williams met a similar fate to Sharapova in Italy having to withdraw from her quarter-final tie after hurting her back while training, just the latest in a long litany of injuries that regularly sideline the former world No. 1.

She insists the injury should not prevent her from challenging for a second French Open crown after that of 2002, but the 26-year-old, like older sister Venus, has never felt that comfortable in Paris where their power games are defused by the slow surface and their popularity has never been high.

All that could open the door for Italian Open winner Jankovic and her younger compatriot Ana Ivanovic who made the final last year only to embarrassingly collapse in a heap of nerves when faced with Henin.

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