Paris: A humble Russian teenager smashed the Williams sisters’ Grand Slam stranglehold Sunday, ousting Venus from the fourth round of the French Open.
As Serena Williams sat stony-faced in the crowd, Vera Zvonareva played the match of her life to beat third seed Venus 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Defeat for the American rules out a fifth successive Grand Slam final between the siblings.
Top seed and defending champion Serena had beaten Venus in the last four finals.
The French crowd rose as one and saluted the 18-year-old as she clinched the stunning win after an hour and 58 minutes of Centre Court drama.
“If you go to the court and believe you can win, you can win,” Zvonareva said with tears in her eyes. “I did it.”
Zvonareva had made her Grand Slam debut here last year and on that occasion was beaten by Serena in the fourth round.
Sunday’s victory was sweet revenge and, having said previously that her most memorable experience was losing to fellow-Russian Nadia Petrova 0-6, 0-6 at age eight, the teenager may now want to think again.
Petrova also earned herself a memory to last a lifetime as she beat seventh seed Jennifer Capriati 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
The two Russian youngsters will now meet in the quarters, guaranteeing a first Russian women’s semi-finalist here since Natasha Zvereva, playing under the USSR flag in 1988.
Serena earlier reached the last eight with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Ai Sugiyama of Japan and will next meet Amelie Mauresmo, the French fifth seed who beat Spain’s Magui Serna 6-1, 6-2.
Agassi marches on
One American who had no intention of being upstaged was Andre Agassi and the seasoned warrior marched straight into the quarter finals with a performance of supreme confidence.
As his younger rivals have fallen by the wayside, the 33-year-old second seed has got stronger and tougher on the Roland Garros clay. On Sunday, Flavio Saretta was his victim.
The Brazilian had already ousted a former champion and world number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Agassi, though, is hewn from different stuff.
With a boldness borne from 18 years at the pinnacle of the sport, Agassi dominated centre court, sinking his opponent 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 in 103 minutes.
The 1998 champion Carlos Moya advanced smoothly by beating Czech Jiri Novak 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 in some style. He will meet Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands, who ousted 11th-seeded German Rainer Schuettler 6-3, 6-3, 7-5.
Two-time champion Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten completed his third round match Sunday morning, packing off Argentine Gaston Gaudio 7-6 (7-1), 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.
Clijsters’ remarkable comeback
Kim Clijsters will also be feeling a lot more comfortable after a remarkable comeback in her fourth-round match.
The Belgian’s relief was palpable when she recovered from the shock of losing the opening set of her match with Magdalena Maleeva in which she did not win a game.
In truth, Clijsters’ 0-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory was largely down to her opponent’s utter capitulation and she will have to be more on the ball when she faces Conchita Martinez in the quarter finals. Martinez advanced when sixth seed Lindsay Davenport retired from the match trailing 6-4 2-0 with a right foot injury.
On centre court, as Saretta flailed on the big stage, Agassi did what he has been doing for the best part of two decades — he turned the screw, pushing the Brazilian ever wider and deeper until the youngster cracked.
It did not take long.
Unaccustomed to the pressure Agassi was piling on him, the 22-year-old’s shots fell apart. What was happening on the court became little more than a side issue. The match was won, and lost, in Saretta’s head. In the end, he was reduced to showboating, juggling a tennis ball around like a footballer. Brazilian to the end.
Unimpressed, Agassi finished him off soon afterwards.
He next faces either Guillermo Coria or Mariano Zabaleta. Birthday girl Justine Henin-Hardenne fought her way into the quarter finals with a well-earned 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 win over Patty Schnyder.
A former top-10 player, Schnyder took a set off the Belgian for the first time in the tournament but in the end was powerless to prevent her marching through on the day she turned 21.
Henin-Hardenne, a semi-finalist here in 2001, will next face eighth seed Chanda Rubin who beat Hungary’s Petra Mandula 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Easy for Paes, Bhupathi
Former doubles champions Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi set up a clash in the men’s doubles quarter finals.
Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi of Belarus beat the Czech pair of Frantisek Cermak and Leos Friedl 6-3, 6-2. Later, fifth seeds Paes and David Rikl of the Czech Republic thrashed Joshua Eagle (Australia) and Jared Palmer of the US (ninth-seeded) 6-2, 6-0.
Paes and Bhupathi had together won this tournament in 1999 when they had reached the finals of all the four Grand Slam events. They again triumphed as a team in 2001.
Paes and Martina Navratilova, though, bowed out. The Australian Open champions lost 6-7 (5-7), 2-6 to Corina Morariu and Jonas Bjorkman in the mixed doubles pre-quarters.
For the rest of the Indians here, though, the day was disappointing. Sanaa Bhambri left when she lost to Marine Giraud of France 5-7, 2-6 in the girls’ section. Somdev Dev Burman fought 16th-seeded Leonardo Kirche of Brazil in the boys’ section, taking a set before losing 6-1, 3-6, 6-4. Sania Mirza was beaten 1-6, 4-6 by Heidi el Tabakh of Egypt.