| Justine Henin-Hardenne in action against Anabel Medina Garrigues at Roland Garros on Saturday. (AFP)
Paris: Six Russians are into the last-16 of the French Open women’s singles while former world No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne survived another scare before going through as well. Hopes for only a second French win in 38 years, however, took a hammer blow with three straight third-round defeats.
The Russians dominated for the first time at Roland Garros last year when Anastasia Myskina became the first Grand Slam winner from her country defeating Elena Dementieva in the final.
Myskina was a first-round casualty this year, but Dementieva went through to the pre-quarter finals on Friday with Elena Likhovtseva.
Joining them on Saturday were Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, along with Nadia Petrova and Elena Bovina.
Second seed Sharapova, a quarter-finalist here in 2004, saw off countrywoman Anna Chakvetadze 6-1, 6-4, while sixth seed Kuznetsova defeated America’s Marissa Irvin 6-1, 2-6, 6-0. Petrova, the No. 7 seed, eased past Shahar Peer of Israel 6-3, 6-1 and 12th seed Bovina ousted French 17th seed Tatiana Golovin 6-3, 7-5.
Russia are already guaranteed two quarter-finalists with Petrova-Bovina and Dementieva-Likhovtseva drawn to face each other in the fourth round on Sunday.
Henin-Hardenne hit back from a nightmarish start, losing the opening five games before steadying the ship to see off the gutsy challenge of Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. But it was a far from convincing performance from the 2003 champion here who continues to struggle with her form and fitness.
In men’s action on Day 6, Marat Safin won the battle of the former world number ones with a 7-6, 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 verdict over Juan Carlos Ferrero to reach the last-16.
The third-round contest had the potential to produce fireworks since Australian Open champion Safin had accused the Spaniard of acting like a 14-year-old after losing to him in the second round in Hamburg earlier this month.
But the Russian third seed stuck to his task on court and ended the challenge of 2003 Roland Garros champion Ferrero in three hours and 45 minutes.
Safin will next face another Spaniard, Tommy Robredo, who dismissed compatriot David Sanchez 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.
No. 12 seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia blasted German Tommy Haas 7-5, 6-0, 6-0. Also advancing to the fourth round was Jose Acasuso, the Argentine who knocked out Andy Roddick the other day.
Last year’s French Open runner-up Guillermo Coria raced into the fourth round with a 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 hammering of Austrian Jurgen Melzer.
The eighth-seeded Argentine, who squandered a two-set lead to compatriot Gaston Gaudio in last year’s final, needed just an hour and 54 minutes to win through to the last 16. Coria next meets 12th-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko.
All eyes were on glamour girl Sharapova, who admitted that her battering game is ill-suited to the demands of claycourt tennis. “On clay the ball doesn’t fly as fast and a lot of them come back,” said Sharapova, a quarter-finalist here in 2004. “I think I am playing a lot better than last year, I still need to be more patient and realise that I can’t go for winners quickly. Some balls are not too comfortable to go for, sometimes I hit it too flat.”
French fortunes faded with third-round defeats for Golovin, Emelie Loit and Nathalie Dechy.
Golovin was the most disappointing for the home crowd as the 17-year-old Russia-born glamour girl is being touted as a potential world No. 1 by many here. Golovin lost to the towering Bovina after letting slip a comfortable lead and set-points in the second set.
Complaining of a painful ankle, Golovin said that she had let pass a golden opportunity to make it into the second week of the tournament.
The vastly experienced Loit lost 6-4, 3-6, 3-6 to Switzerland’s Emmanuelle Gagliardi in a match held over from Friday, while Dechy ' a semi-finalist at this year’s Australian Open ' went down 6-7 (1-7), 3-6 to diminutive Spaniard Nuria Llagostera Vives.
Mahesh-Lisa in Round II
India’s Mahesh Bhupathi finally had something to cheer about when he and Lisa Raymond advanced to the mixed doubles second round with a facile victory. The seventh-seeded Indo-American pair beat Virginia Ruano Pascual (Spain) and Jonathan Erlich (Israel) 6-3, 6-4 late on Friday.
Bhupathi and Aussie partner Todd Woodbridge bowed out of the first round in men’s doubles. (Agencies)