Nadia Petrova and 15th seed Aravane Rezai played very serious tennis last night, some of it in the dark. They each held three match points, and they each failed to convert. With the thriller at its peak--7-all in the third--the match was suspended due to darkness. Today, after a night of disturbed sleep, Petrova won, 6-7, 6-4, 10-8. The two exchanged breaks right away, and it was conceivable that the contest could go on and on, but Petrova held, and that--after 2 hours and 48 minutes--was that.
Petrova, seeded 19th, is known for going off mentally during a match, but even with the French crowd making the experience as difficult as possible for her, she steadied herself. She also hit 12 aces and 50 winners. Both players are to be commended for providing so much excitement for fans. Now Petrova gets Venus Williams in the round of 16, and that also has the potential to be a very good match.
The drama continued this evening, with 12th seed Maria Sharapova having to play in conditions that are the least favorable for her. It was raining, and of course--the balls were very heavy. In the first set, she looked lost, sometimes standing still or moving awkwardly to reach Justine Henin's shots. When she did move, it wasn't fast enough. Henin, seeded 22nd (go figure) at this event, went up 4-0, and won the set 6-2.
The outlook appeared grim for Sharapova, but in the second set, she began to play clay court tennis, and focused on confounding Henin's movement. She used a variety of change-ups, including drop shots, to get Henin out of her rhythm. Also, Henin had trouble with her service game. At 3-all, Sharapova broke, and took the set 6-3, breaking Henin's streak of 40 consecutive set wins at the French Open. Clearly, the momentum was with the Russian, but at this level, momentum can change just as quickly after a set as it can after a night of sleep. To be continued...