Petrova drives Venus from French Open finals

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Petrova drives Venus from French Open finals

PARIS - Venus Williams and her much-hyped wardrobe made an unexpected exit, and Roger Federer left one of his best friends smashing his racket in frustration as a windy chill engulfed the French Open on Sunday.

Second seed Williams must wait at least another year for her first singles title here after Russian 19th seed Nadia Petrova showed steely resolve and superior ability to cope with the swirling breeze that dogged day eight of the clay court slam. And despite Andy Murray’s professed enthusiasm for playing on clay, the British fourth seed’s game was again found wanting as he became the highest-ranked man so far to exit the tournament.

The women’s event had been shaping up for another Williams sisters final, but Petrova outclassed Venus, who opted for a more modest version of the black lacy corset that set Parisian tongues wagging all week.

“It’s my most dramatic French Open,” said Petrova after booking a place in the last eight against fellow Russian Elena Dementieva with the 6-4 6-3 triumph.

Williams said her game had malfunctioned in the cold.

“I feel like I had a day where I wanted to hit the ball crosscourt and it went down the line, sometimes it happens,” the 29-year-old said. “Sometimes when it’s too cold it’s hard to feel the racket.”

Earlier, Justine Henin cemented her place in the fourth round after coming through a one-set shootout with another former world No. 1, Russian 12th seed Maria Sharapova.

The four-time champion trailed 0-2 0-40 in the decider after darkness halted their third-round match on Saturday at one-set all, but a change of gear from the Belgian saw her to a 6-2 3-6 6-3 win.

Sharapova is missing only the French Open title from her grand slam collection.

Federer may be one of Stanislas Wawrinka’s closest friends on the tour, but that didn’t stop the defending champ from driving his fellow Swiss mad as he nonchalantly booked his place in the last eight. Wawrinka had the audacity to break Federer’s serve in the second set and had the upper hand until the man he won Olympic doubles gold with two years ago decided to turn the screw.

He took the second set to a tiebreak which he won 7-5, prompting Wawrinka to smash his racket into the red clay three times, mangling the frame and strings. The resulting code violation failed to galvanize him, and Federer stormed through the third set to record a 6-3 7-6 6-2 victory in under two hours.

Federer now faces Robin Soderling, the man he beat to complete his career grand slam here last year, after the dangerous Swede destroyed Croatia’s Marin Cilic 6-4 6-4 6-2.

“I’ve never lost against him, so obviously that’s a good record to have,” said Federer, who is 12-0 against the man who stormed his way through the draw for the loss of one set.

“But because of the improvements he’s made, he’s an opponent not to underestimate.”

French hopes died when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired with a stomach injury after losing the first set in his fourth-round clash against Mikhail Youzhny. Unlike Tsonga and his many French rivals, Murray single-handedly carries his nation’s hopes on his shoulders, and against Czech Tomas Berdych his game did not pass muster.

The 6-foot 5-inch 15th seed crunched winner after winner, continuing his run of unbeaten sets in the tournament with a 6-4 7-5 6-3 fourth-round victory in fading light on the Suzanne Lenglen court.


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