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Serena's chances slip away in quarterfinal

PARIS — Serena Williams is usually the one who saves match points, not wastes them.

Who seizes control of an exchange, not cedes it.

Who turns up her game at Grand Slam time.

Except at the French Open, the lone major tournament she has won only once and where she has now gone seven years without reaching the semifinals.

The No. 1-ranked Williams dropped 17 consecutive points during one stretch, climbed all the way back to within a point of victory, then faded late and lost to No. 7 Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-2, 6-7 (7-2), 8-6 Wednesday in the Roland Garros quarterfinals.

"Had I played better for two minutes, maybe the result could have been different. But it didn't work out," said Williams, who missed a forehand by an inch or so when she held a match point at 5-4 in the final set. "Just wasn't playing well today. Last year, I choked. I guess it's a redundant story with me."

The upset was Stosur's second in a row — she eliminated four-time champion Justine Henin in the fourth round.

"It's not over yet," said Stosur, who resides on Harbour Island in Tampa and trains there. She's a tour-best 19-2 on clay this season and a 2009 French Open semifinalist.

"I want to definitely try to keep going."

In keeping with the run of surprises at the wide-open French, No. 22 Jurgen Melzer came back to beat No. 3 Novak Djokovic 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in the last men's quarterfinal. Melzer, at 29 the oldest man left, never before won a match after losing the first two sets — and never made it beyond the third round at any Grand Slam event in 31 previous tries.

His reward? A semifinal Friday against four-time champ Rafael Nadal, who ousted No. 19 Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4. Nadal, who lost to Robin Soderling in last year's fourth round, extended his winning streak on clay to 20 matches.

Stosur plays today against No. 4 Jelena Jankovic, who got past unseeded Yaroslava Shvedova 7-5, 6-4. No. 5 Elena Dementieva faces No. 17 Francesca Schiavone in the other.

For the first time at any Grand Slam tournament since the 1979 Australian Open, none of the four female semifinalists owns a major title. Williams has 12, with five at the Australian Open — including this year — and three apiece at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon.

Williams never hid her frustrations. Her serve was a friend — accumulating 13 aces — and a foe — yielding nine double faults. The rest of Williams' strokes were a mixed bag, too: She finished with more winners than Stosur, 39-30, and nearly twice as many unforced errors, 46-24.

"I definitely was nowhere near my best," Williams said, then added: "But she played really well."

About an hour after that loss, Williams went back on court to team with older sister Venus and reach the doubles final by beating Liezel Huber and Anabel Medina Garrigues 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. That victory means Serena Williams will top the WTA rankings in singles and doubles as of next week.

The younger Williams isn't accustomed to getting pushed around on a court, but that's exactly what Stosur managed to do, commanding points with deep groundstrokes lathered with spin.

"I didn't want to let her try and dictate the points early on, so I tried to do that straight back to her," said Stosur, who recently switched to the same sort of synthetic racket strings Nadal uses. "You can't give her much."

Remarkably, starting from the match's sixth game, Stosur claimed 17 points in a row — including three games at love — to win the opening set and move ahead in the second.

"Knew it wasn't over," Stosur said. "Serena can turn things around very quickly."

fast facts

Today's top matches

Women's semifinals: No. 4 Jelena Jankovic vs. No. 7 Samantha Stosur, No. 5 Elena Dementieva vs. No. 17 Francesca Schiavone

TV: 5 a.m., Tennis Channel; 8 a.m., ESPN2

Serena's chances slip away in quarterfinal 06/02/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 10:50pm]
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