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Henin's streak runs out; Serena rolls

PARIS — Justine Henin kept saying it, even if no one was listening.

She's not back to being the player she was before taking a 20-month hiatus from tennis. She's still searching for consistency on court. Too many "ups and downs," to use her term.

Turns out Henin was right. Betrayed down the stretch by her best stroke, the backhand, and by her usually steely nerves, the four-time French Open champion lost to No. 7-seeded Sam Stosur 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the fourth round Monday, ending Henin's 24-match winning streak at her favorite tournament.

"Everyone wants to see me (at) the level that I was," said Henin, who abruptly retired in May 2008 while ranked No. 1, then returned to the tour this season and reached the Australian Open final in January. "I still have to work a lot, quite simply."

Thanks to her 2005-07 titles at Roland Garros, and then the time away, it has been six years since Henin felt the sting of a loss at the claycourt Grand Slam tournament — all the way back in 2004's second round.

"Obviously, beating Justine is going to give me lots and lots of confidence for the next match," said Stosur, a French Open semifinalist in 2009 and a tour-best 18-2 on clay this year. "That's obviously a great achievement for me, but it's not over yet. I'm just in the quarters and going to play the No. 1 player in the world next."

That would be Serena Williams, who stumbled at the start before cruising to a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 18 Shahar Peer. Williams dropped the first seven points then took nine in a row and was on her way.

"I seem to always be able to turn it up during this particular stage," said Williams, who won two of the past three Grand Slam tournaments.

The other quarterfinal in that half of the draw will be No. 4 Jelena Jankovic against 36th-ranked Yaroslava Shvedova. Jankovic beat No. 23 Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 6-2, while Shvedova eliminated 107th-ranked Jarmila Groth 6-4, 6-3.

In men's fourth-round matches, four-time champion Rafael Nadal improved to 200-16 on clay by overcoming four breaks of serve to defeat No. 24 Thomaz Bellucci 6-2, 7-5, 6-4. A year ago, Nadal lost in the fourth round — he was 31-0 at Roland Garros before that stunning exit against Robin Soderling — but he insisted that didn't make him any more careful this time.

Now Nadal faces No. 19 Nicolas Almagro, who knocked off No. 7 Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4. Meanwhile, No. 3 Novak Djokovic eliminated the last U.S. man in the tournament, 98th-ranked Robby Ginepri, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, and No. 22 Jurgen Melzer beat qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Ginepri's career has been marked by unpredictable runs in Grand Slams (to the semifinals at the 2005 U.S. Open and the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2008 and 2010) sprinkled around inconsistency and injuries. He outplayed Djokovic for two sets but settled for a split.

Early in the third set, Ginepri fell while scrambling back on a ball. He found himself on his belly and did a few push-ups, delighting the fans.

"Never doing those again on-court," he said dryly. "I think that kind of changed the momentum a little bit."

Williams might have forgotten what it feels like to reach the semifinals in Paris: She hasn't been that far at the French Open since 2003, a year after she won her only championship at the tournament.

"I feel prepared every year, and I always dive out in the quarters," Williams said. "I'm just trying to get past that this year, hopefully."

In doubles, Serena and sister Venus advanced to the semifinals, defeating Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-3.

Fast facts

Today's top matches

Men: No. 1 Roger Federer vs. No. 5 Robin Soderling, No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny vs. No. 15 Tomas Berdych

Women: No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki vs. No. 17 Francesca Schiavone, No. 5 Elena Dementieva vs. No. 19 Nadia Petrova

TV: 8 a.m., Tennis Channel; noon, ESPN2

Henin's streak runs out; Serena rolls 05/31/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 31, 2010 10:45pm]
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