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Serena felled, Sharapova survives

Last updated on: May 30, 2008 20:11 IST

Serena Williams trudged out of Roland Garros on Friday after her French Open dreams were pounded into the red clay by a tenacious Slovenian who never lost belief.

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Less than 24 hours after the tournament was rocked by the defeat of three top 10 seeds, including David Nalbandian and James Blake, the American joined them at the exit queue as she roared and screamed her way to a 6-4, 6-4 mauling by Katarina Srebotnik in the third round.

"I knew it was going to be a tough match, but what can I say? She just played unbelievable today," said Williams, who had gone into the match with a 3-0 record against Srebotnik.

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The fifth seed's defeat also meant a new name would be engraved on the Suzanne Lenglen Cup next week as she was the only former champion in the women's draw.

Her loss cleared the way for a final showdown between Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, the top two seeds who withstood some fierce resistance on Friday before marching on.

An erratic Ivanovic overcame a slight wobble in the first set before downing Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-1 to reach the fourth round, while Sharapova huffed and puffed her way to a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 second-round win over American Bethanie Mattek.

But no amount of on-court dramatics could save Williams.

On the eve of the championships the 2002 winner had declared herself "100 percent fit" but on Friday it was Srebotnik who always looked in better shape to advance.


She had the younger of the Williams sisters on the backfoot from the start, breaking her with a string of stinging winners and by the closing stages of the set, things went from bad to worse for the former world number one.

After smashing an easy overhead straight into the net, the fans gasped in disbelief while a stunned Serena leaned her forehead on the end of her racket as she stared into the ground.

Moments later the set had vanished from her grasp.

She could have made amends at 4-3 up in the second as she had break point but a bizarre choice of shot, choosing to hit a drop shot when she had an open court at her disposal, put paid to those hopes.

Srebotnik punished Williams's lack of judgement by wrapping up the match two games later when the American swiped a forehand wide.

"Today, I woke up and knew I had really nothing to lose so I just took my chances. I'm really happy that today it turned my way," said Srebotnik, who made it through to the last 16 of a slam for only the second time in 35 attempts.

While Ivanovic has so far managed to win all three of her matches in straight sets, the same cannot be said of Sharapova.

If the Russian wants to complete a career grand slam by lifting the Roland Garros title, she will have to take a crash course in how to hit crisp winners after yet another scrappy performance on Friday.

After being two points from defeat in her opening match against fellow Russian Evgeniya Rodina, Sharapova again dropped the second set against Mattek, who is more well known for her outlandish outfits than her tennis pedigree.

However, in a match left hanging in the balance overnight after fading light aborted play, Sharapova regained her poise to make a third-round date with Italian 32nd seed Karin Knapp.

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