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So smooth on clay, Henin-Hardenne routs Sharapova in quarterfinals


PARIS - In the 11 months since Maria Sharapova's breakthrough triumph at Wimbledon, her life has been almost nonstop victories, corporate paydays and photo shoots.

But yesterday, in the dirty red clay of the French Open, she got her nose mussed by Justine Henin-Hardenne for the second time in a month in an 87-minute tour de force that had more to do with grit than glamour.

The diminutive Belgian's 6-4, 6-2 victory was her 22nd in a row, all on clay, without a loss this year and sent her to the semifinals against another Russian, Nadia Petrova, for a spot in Saturday's final.

It was a surprisingly easy match for Henin-Hardenne, who seemed to be wearing out after going split sets in three of her first four matches and who was getting daily therapy for an injury to her upper right leg.

She had committed 121 unforced errors in her two previous matches but, after some tense moments in the opening set with Sharapova, she asserted herself with strong serving and even better service returning to break down her opponent.

"When I broke her the second time in the second set, I felt she didn't know anymore what to do," Henin-Hardenne said.

It was not a day for thrilling women's matches. Petrova whisked past young Ana Ivanovic, 6-2, 6-2, while, in the upper half of the draw, Lindsay Davenport, No. 1 in the world and the last American left here, played poorly in losing to Mary Pierce, 6-3, 6-2.

Pierce, 30, the 2000 French Open winner, will play her semifinal against yet another Russian, Elena Likhovtseva, who defeated 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

For Pierce, this victory could be prescient. It was her first over a No. 1 player since the 2000 French Open, which she won, beating No. 1 Martina Hingis in the semifinals that year.

"When she's on, she does hit the lines a lot," Davenport said. "I never got into a rhythm of ever controlling a point. I always felt like I was trying to get balls in and never felt all that much control with moving the balls around. It was more like, 'Oh gosh, I hope this goes in.'"

With Sharapova's loss, Davenport will carry her No. 1 ranking into Wimbledon. Sharapova seemed unconcerned.

"Every loss is disappointing," she said. "I'm sure you hear that from every loser, but that's the way it goes."

In men's action yesterday, top-seeded Roger Federer and No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal won in straight sets to set up a blockbuster semifinal matchup.

Federer defeated Romanian Victor Hanescu, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-3, and Nadal blasted past Spanish countryman David Ferrer, 7-5, 6-2, 6-0.

The Swiss superstar and the 19-year-old Spaniard have been the best players on the ATP Tour this year with 11 titles between them.

Today, the semifinals in the bottom half of the draw will be settled with Guillermo Canas playing Argentine compatriot Mariano Puerta in one match, and Spain's Tommy Robredo meeting Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in the other.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


Men's quarterfinals

Roger Federer (1), Switzerland, def. Victor Hanescu, Romania, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-3. Rafael Nadal (4), Spain, def. David Ferrer (20), Spain, 7-5, 6-2, 6-0.

Women's quarterfinals

Nadia Petrova (7), Russia, def. Ana Ivanovic (29), Serbia-Montenegro, 6-2, 6-2. Elena Likhovtseva (16), Russia, def. Sesil Karatantcheva, Bulgaria, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Justine Henin-Hardenne (10), Belgium, def. Maria Sharapova (2), Russia, 6-4, 6-2. Mary Pierce (21), France, def. Lindsay Davenport (1), United States, 6-3, 6-2.

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