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Rediff.com  » Sports » Mauresmo comeback cut short, Henin clings on

Mauresmo comeback cut short, Henin clings on

May 12, 2007 08:16 IST

Amelie Mauresmo had her comeback cut short in a 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 defeat by Julia Vakulenko in the German Open on Friday, and by the end of another cold and gloomy day Justine Henin was in danger of following her out.

Henin, the world number one, lost the first set of her quarter-final 6-3 to the fifth-seeded Serb Jelena Jankovic and was clinging on at 4-4 in the second when poor light forced the players off the Steffi Graf Stadium court.

Defending champion Nadia Petrova was beaten 7-6, 6-4 by fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded third, while in another quarter-final 12th-seeded Serb Ana Ivanovic beat 15th seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.

Mauresmo, the Wimbledon champion and second seed in Berlin, had her appendix out in March and was playing her first tournament since losing to Henin in Dubai on Feb. 24.

She led 6-2, 1-1 overnight in her third round game but world number 53 Vakulenko stormed back at the restart, reeling off five straight games to win the second set and breaking Mauresmo's serve four times in the match.

She recognised after the defeat that she would need a better run in Rome next week to help prepare for the French Open, which starts on May 27.

"I'm going directly to Rome and I hope that I'll be able to get as much practice as possible on the courts," Mauresmo told reporters.

"I'm physically fit and am totally recovered from the appendectomy. I now need as many matches as possible before the French Open."

It was an exhausting day for Vakulenko, who, like Henin, had to play twice because of a backlog caused by rain.

SPRIGHTLY FASHION

The Ukrainian returned to court number one to play Dinara Safina of Russia and emerged victorious 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 after a gruelling match that lasted two hours 23 minutes.

She will go on to face Ivanovic in the semi-finals.

The second semi will be between Kuznetsova and either Henin or Jankovic.

Henin had begun the day in sprightly fashion, beating the Italian Maria Elena Camerin 6-1, 6-3 in the third round.

She started well in the quarter-finals, too, building a 3-2 lead with a break.

A rain delay changed all that, with Jankovic returning with a run of five straight games to win the first set and go a break ahead in the second.

Henin steadied herself by breaking back and the two players continued to trade unforced errors and breaks of serve until they were called off.

Kuznetsova is likely to be a tough opponent whoever she is up against, given how strong she looked in beating Petrova.

"She's very tough to play against in heavy conditions like this," Petrova said of Kuznetsova. "In this sort of form she could even win the tournament."

(Additional reporting by Iain Rogers and Dave Graham)

Kevin Fylan