PARIS, May 30 (Agencies): One winner-take-all set seemed like a final, and Justine Henin emerged the winner.
Back on center court Sunday following an overnight suspension of play, Henin outslugged Maria Sharapova in a third-round showdown at the French Open, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
The two former No. 1s played the seesaw final set after the match was suspended late Saturday because of darkness. The pivotal moment came when Henin fell behind 0-2, love-40, then overcame four break points to hold.
She soon led 4-2, broke to go ahead 5-3 and served out the victory.
“I kept my chances to win this tournament,” said the four-time champion, playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2007. “I will give my best and enjoy it. It was a really good test.”
The victory extended Henin’s winning streak at Roland Garros to 24 matches. It was the first meeting between the two rivals since Henin spent 20 months in retirement before mounting a career comeback this year.
Henin next plays No. 7 Samantha Stosur.
In fourth-round play, No. 5 Elena Dementieva beat unseeded Chanelle Scheepers 6-1, 6-3. No. 17 Francesca Schiavone defeated No. 30 Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 6-4.
Walking onto center court to resume her match after a 15 1/2-hour interruption, Henin smiled slightly. Sharapova followed wearing a scowl, and that intensity carried over when play began.
Sharapova pumped her fist after almost every point she won – and often before points. Henin found herself on the defensive at first, then began sending shots into the corners, forcing Sharapova to hit on the run.
Despite less than ideal conditions – windy, chilly and damp – both players took ferocious swings from the baseline and charged forward when they had the chance.
Henin put a backhand winner on the line to break for 5-3. Sharapova continued to scowl.
“This is a great champion, and you have to make sure you don’t give her chances,” Henin said. “I really admire her, because at 5-3 in the third set, she was still believing in her chances to win the match.”
Instead, Henin raced to a 40-love lead, and two points later she had the victory when Sharapova pulled a running backhand wide.
The showdown occurred early in the tournament because Sharapova was seeded 12th and Henin – climbing in the rankings since her return – is 22nd. Their nine previous meetings all came in the quarterfinals or later, with Henin winning six.
Sharapova ended Henin’s streak of 40 consecutive sets won at Roland Garros, which tied the tournament record set by Helen Wills Moody in 1926-32. But Sharapova again came away empty at the only Grand Slam tournament she has never won.
Meanwhile, yesterday Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both reached the last 16 at the French Open. Nadal was broken in his opening service game against Hewitt but hit back to edge a well-contested first set before securing the decisive break of serve in the second set when the Australian fired a flat forehand long.
Hewitt, now ranked 33 in the world, showed flashes of his trademark tenacity but was no match for the Spanish clay king, who sewed up a straightforward 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory on his third match point.