clay court

Is Grass Always Greener?

When the new International-level WTA event made its debut this week in Nürnberg, Germany, there was no shortage of quality story lines; although the draw featured no top 10 players, top seed Jelena Jankovic is always a walking headline and four Germans started off in the main draw. Nonetheless, the event has made headlines for completely unexpected reasons. Some have questioned the merit of the WTA holding a clay court event two weeks before Wimbledon, particularly in a country where the grass-court tuneup in Halle always attracts a star-studded ATP lineup.

The idea of arbitrarily placed clay court events on either tour’s calendar is nothing new. The WTA calendar also allocates space for four clay court events in the two weeks following Wimbledon: Budapest, Palermo, Bastad and Bad Gastein. Serena Williams is committed to play the clay-court event in Bastad for the first time in her career, and the event is held the week before her usual US Open Series tuneup in Stanford. Rafael Nadal returned from a seven month injury layoff and prepared for the North American hard court season by playing in Vina del Mar, Sao Paulo and Acapulco…on clay.

With the way that professional tennis has evolved over the years, the grass court season has become little more than a blip on the drawn-out tennis calendar; while players like Alison Riske and Tsvetana Pironkova might’ve found their lives a bit easier if three of the four slams were still contested on grass, career-defining results on grass are not the norm for most players. Is it really to a player’s benefit to waste time (and money) to travel and compete on a surface where she’ll reap such little reward for such a short time?

There is constant clamoring for players to schedule smarter and play the tournaments that are in their best interest. By putting these tournaments on the schedule, the WTA is allowing for that. There was little to no clamor about Nadal returning to action on his most preferred surface to get match play and confidence. This week in Nürnberg, the narrative was quite similar. The saga of Andrea Petkovic and her injuries over the past 18 months is well known. After losing in Roland Garros qualifying to unheralded Yi-Miao Zhou, Petkovic dropped down to the ITF Circuit and won a $100,000 event in Marseille on clay; among her scalps, Petkovic defeated in-form players Monica Puig and Paula Ormaechea, both of whom came off third round showings in Paris. After defeating Sofia Arvidsson in the first round in Germany, Petkovic assured her return to the top 100. Petkovic’s good form continued as she rallied past Annika Beck, her teenaged countrywoman, in nearly three hours to reach her first WTA semifinal since Luxembourg in 2012.

On the other side of the draw, Polona Hercog was making an injury comeback of her own. The Slovenian quietly played just one match this year at the Australian Open before requiring wrist surgery, and made her return to competition at a $50,000 ITF event in France before Roland Garros. No slouch on her beloved clay, where she owns two WTA singles titles, Hercog also fell in Roland Garros qualifying. Hercog’s greatest grass court success came as a junior, when she reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2008. Since then, Hercog has avoided grass like the plague, and rightly so. The Slovenian’s game is far from effective on grass, and it didn’t take her long to figure that out. She’s played just a handful of matches on the surface in her career. Her only career win at Wimbledon came against Johanna Larsson, perhaps the only active WTA player less comfortable on grass than Hercog herself. Instead of moving on to grass, Hercog took the title at a $25,000 ITF event in her hometown of Maribor, reached the semifinals in Marseille and took out the No. 2 seed Klara Zakopalova en route to a quarterfinal showing in Nürnberg. With smart scheduling, Hercog got herself more match practice in a few weeks than she might have for nearly the rest of the year.

In a sport where so much is made of wins and losses, it’s much easier to adapt to an uncomfortable situation when you’re in good form. None of the WTA’s top three are entered in a grass court warmup event, and does anyone believe that this is a hindrance to their title hopes? The difference is that these players perform at a high level nearly every week and are rarely, if ever, short on confidence. Confidence and the ability to adapt comes from winning, and nothing else. Not everyone has the luxury to be able to have and do that on a dime. By holding simultaneous tournaments on different surfaces, both tours are allowing for the highest percentage of their players to succeed.

The Li Na Conundrum

Li Na? Or Na Li?

The western world’s difficulty with the naming order of the former Roland Garros winner is sometimes the least of her problems. She (basically) carries the burden of an entire nation, becoming the first Asian woman to win a major title in singles. She graced the cover of TIME Magazine, and was named by the publication as one of the 100 most influential people in the world this year. Recently called “the most important player of the decade” by WTA CEO Stacey Allaster, Li’s success has been instrumental in the rise of tennis in the Asia/Pacific region, as well as spearheading the concerted marketing efforts of the WTA in the area.

Nothing in Li’s career had marked her as a particularly strong clay court prior to her run to the Roland Garros title in 2011. She had previous contested just four French Opens, reaching three third rounds and one fourth round. Clay so often rewards patience, and this is a virtue that Li does not always possess. When Li is having a good day, she puts on a show. she’s capable of blowing anyone on the WTA off the court and going toe-to-toe with the game’s biggest hitters. The surface is irrelevant, as she can hit through any conditions. When she’s off, however, the match becomes more of a struggle against herself than any opponent.

After reaching the final in Stuttgart and losing a decent match to Maria Sharapova, Li struggled to adapt to the conditions in Madrid when facing lucky loser Madison Keys in the opening round; while no excuse, Li was no doubt befuddled by the last-minute withdrawal of Tamira Paszek, and received little to no advanced warning that she’d be playing Keys. In a 6-3, 6-2 defeat, Li amassed a total of 34 unforced errors, while balancing that out with just eight winners.

After playing one of the most dramatic matches of the 2012 season with Maria Sharapova in the finals at the Foro Italico last year, Li no doubt returned to Rome in 2013 looking to avenge some of the bad memories from a season ago. Li brushed aside countrywoman Zheng Jie in her opening match, delivering a clinical performance against a player she had previously struggled against; prior to their second round match, Zheng had won four of five previous meetings.

On the other side of the net in Rome on Thursday was Jelena Jankovic, a woman who has won six titles on clay in her career; this haul includes back-to-back titles in Rome at the height of her career in 2007 and 2008. The match was perhaps a microcosm of Li’s career; she was strikingly brilliant for a point or two, but largely flat, wild and unimpressive. Jankovic triumphed by a 7-6(2), 7-5 scoreline but it was perhaps Li’s stat line that was the most shocking of all: 31 winners and 62 unforced errors.

Statistics so rarely tell the real story regarding the dynamics of a tennis match, but tend to be incredibly accurate when Li steps on court. What was Keys’ tally in Madrid? Seven winners, 11 unforced errors. Jankovic’s was no better in Rome, as the Serbian needed just 16 winners (while making 29 errors of her own) to come out the victor. When Li is playing well, she forces her opposition to outplay her; when she’s not, however, they are only required to be just shy of ordinary.

While she has shown that she is able to shine on the biggest stages multiple times, there have been just as many or more when she has failed to rise to the occasion. At the age of 31, Li isn’t getting any younger. Erratic performances have categorized her less-than-traditional road to the top, and she can no longer afford consistently disappointing letdowns like in Madrid and Rome. A Jekyll-and-Hyde performer on court, it’s almost as if she still doesn’t know what kind of player she can be.

(For the record, it’s Li Na. We can at least be sure of that.)

Preview: Spain set to host epic Davis Cup clash with Argentina – Live Coverage

by Stephanie Neppl

Seville is set for what should be an epic Davis Cup final between two of the most likeable teams in tennis: Spain and Argentina. Take a look at pics of the teams interacting this week and you’ll see smiling faces between the players and endearing moments. It’s clear there’s mutual respect and friendship between many of the teams’ top players.

Spain is the favorite, without question. The team is the host and has won four titles in the past 10 years, with the slow clay certainly helping them.  And yes, it boasts Rafael Nadal, arguably the best clay court player ever as well as #5 David Ferrer who’s had a career best year.

This Davis Cup final yields so many storylines and so many questions. Will the Argentineans be healthy enough to be competitive , particularly with Davis Cup veteran David Nalbandian still battling injuries? Will Nadal, mentally exhausted from a topsy-turvy year on tour, find the strength to lead his team to another title? Will Fernando Verdasco and  Feliciano Lopez redeem themselves after losing badly in Spain’s narrow victory over the US in the semifinals? Will Juan Monaco, Argentina’s most in-form player of late, step up against his good friend Nadal in the opening match of the tie?

The emotional tugs for tennis fans may mostly surround Nalbandian. He’s never been part of a winning Davis Cup team, and most feel 2012 will be his last year  on tour. Nalbandian has always been fiercely passionate about Davis Cup and most tennis fans would be pretty ecstatic should he finally win one.

And then, there’s the crowd. Having been to all four grand slams and the Beijing Olympics, I’ve seen my share of partisan crowds. Davis Cup ties are legendary for being noisy and full of very patriotic fans. Will the crowd be fair to both teams or are all bets off? At the Beijing Olympics, the partisan crowd lost all touch with good fan behaviour while its own were playing. Will the Seville crowd behave?

Thus far, the atmosphere in Seville has been fantastic. Somehow the tennis gods smiled down on me as my accommodation is directly across the road from the Spanish team’s hotel. I’ve already been within hand shaking distance from Nadal twice, and have seen the entire team. Last night, I saw Verdasco and David Ferrer quickly race into their hotel from their courtesy van while Nadal and Lopez lingered to bring their bags into the hotel. The number of fans outside the hotel has been rather small, and Nadal has been welcoming to his fans and has posed with a fair few (this professional tennis fan was not quick or assertive enough to ask for a photo either time).

Local shops have also gotten into the Davis Cup spirit with tennis signs and displays (a butchery near Team Spain’s hotel has even crafted a tennis court in its window using  huge pieces of jamon as rackets). A Davis Cup museum has been set up in the city centre showing off programmes and signed memorabilia from past ties while a big screen plays highlights of classic matches.

Today, the draw was held at the  beautiful Teatro Lope de Vega. Sadly, only media were allowed inside and a noisy rally by striking workers (apparently over a migrant worker issues) created a huge distraction from the joy of the Davis Cup draw. My group saw all the teams pull up in cars but that was as close to the draw as we could get since it was not open to the public.

Practices inside Estadio Olímpico de Sevilla have also been closed to the public, though the team’s practice times have been published online. So the excitement and anticipation builds and builds for the many fans who’ve been in town waiting for the tie to begin. The long wait is over at 1pm Friday to see the teams and the stadium. A ceremony will kick off at 1pm, followed by Nadal versus Monaco then Ferrer versus Del Potro.

May the best team win! Vamos!

Stephanie Neppl is in Seville, Spain covering the Davis Cup Finals as a guest contributor for Tennis Grandstand. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Dream Finale

In a fitting end to the 2010 season, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal squared off in the finals of the ATP World Tour Championships. While not as intense as some of their previous encounters, there were some absolutely fantastic rallies and scintillating shot making. When the last ball was struck, it was Federer who came out on top. The loss shouldn’t take away from Nadal’s season, as with a stellar clay court run and three majors in his back pocket, it was clearly his year. But for Federer fans, the performance he put on over the course of the last week is extremely encouraging. Coach Annacone has done wonders with the Swiss Maestro, and he was producing plenty of vintage Federer tennis throughout the tournament. It has certainly set things up for an intriguing start to 2011 as Nadal looks to complete a “Nadal Slam,” Federer looks to regain his hold at the top of the sport, and the rest of field tries break the stranglehold these two have had on the game.

Parting Ways

Earlier this week it was announced that Robin Soderling and Magnus Norman will be ending their partnership as player and coach. The parting was amicable, with Norman wanting to spend more time on his personal life and Soderling, understandably, needing a coach who can be with him full time. The split has the potential to be a setback for Soderling, who has seen his game and ranking improve in leaps and bounds under the tutelage of Norman. At only 26 with his game improving and confidence growing, however, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be able to find some experienced coach willing to step up to the plate and try to take the big-hitting Swede to the next level.

Awarding Excellence

The WTA listed its award winners this week, and the top honor went to Kim Clijsters, who was named the player of the year. While some might have made a case that Serena should have received the honor with two majors (a season that admittedly most players would gladly take), it’s a tough argument to win when she only played six tournaments over the course of the entire year. In addition to player of the year, Clijsters also received the player service award, and her fellow Belgian Justine Henin brought more honor to their home nation by being named the comeback player of the year. The remaining awards fittingly went to Maria Sharapova as humanitarian of the year, Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko as doubles team of the year, and Petra Kvitova as the newcomer of the year.

Convenient Duty

Russian Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev has to be feeling confident of Russia’s chances in the 2011 Fed Cup, having named Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Maria Sharapova for the first-round tie against France in February. The real steal in that lineup is Sharapova, though a source from her team as alleged that Sharapova has stated she is only “very likely” to play as opposed to being a sure a thing. Sharapova has only competed for Russia once, that time coming in 2008 in order to be eligible for the Olympics. She is in a similar situation here, having to make herself available for Fed Cup duty at least once in order to be eligible for the 2012 Olympics. In many ways, her participation is similar to that of the Williams Sisters for the United States, and while you can’t fault a coach for wanting to put his best talent forward, it seems unfair to bypass another player who has continually put in the time (especially with a country like Russia, that has a deep pool to pull from) just so that someone like a Sharapova wants a shot at Olympic glory. Perhaps the system needs to be tweaked and force a player to be available for duty on more than one occasion if they want the top honor of representing their country in the Olympics.

Taking a Stand

Former pro and Tennis Australia’s Todd Woodbridge released a statement earlier this week stating that three players, Brydan Klein, Nick Lindahl and Dayne Kelly, have been barred from contesting the December playoffs for the chance to earn a spot in the Australian Open. All three (and certainly not surprisingly in Klein’s case), have received the bans due to their “numerous accounts of unacceptable behavior at tournaments both locally and internationally over the past few months.” Given the promise some of these juniors have shown, as well as the fact that Lleyton Hewitt is the only Australian male in the Top 100, it’s admirable that Tennis Australia is doing the right thing taking a tough stand with its players, even if it might temporarily hold back their development. Hopefully these guys will turn it around and prove fruitful prospects for a nation that has one of the richest tennis traditions in history.

The LA Open Preview

The Farmers Classic LA Open starts Monday July 26, one of the many US Open Series hard court tournaments lined up, touted as a ‘tune up’ event, one of many, preceding the Big Show at the end of the month in New York. Yours truly, the ubiquitous hooligan/tennis junkie/prominent writer for the ages (I’ll let you decide which one of those is not a cold hard fact) will be in attendance giving you the low down on every quirk, forehand, sigh, up the T ace, blistering hallway gossip, who’s who and who’s what, who’s doing this and who’s doing that, and a whole lot more…

The tournament boasts some hot talent attending with a couple of top ten players and a few rising to the occasion. British upstart Andy Murray, the no. 1 seed, and hungry as ever, will be playing the long standing event for the first time. Murray reached two slam finals losing both times to Roger Federer and seems ready to hoist a trophy on Super Sunday. Entering the LA Open confirms his will and desire to be at utmost preparedom for the pressure of getting there. But we all know getting there is only half the feat. Murray may face a tough first round opener if Russian Schizo Teymuraz Gabashvili wins his first match. The Russian may look like a typical plebian tennis player, making his way through some lower tier events into the second week, but lately has put together a potent all around game with gusto showing good runs at recent Grand Slams. Joining Murray in the top half of the draw is Ernest Gulbis, the eccentric Latvian, who looks like a grassy knoll hippie at times, but has put together an impressive resume of victims including Roger Federer this past clay court season in Rome.

The American contigent will be represented well with Sam Querry who has won the event prior, posing as the second seed, and Mardy Fish, who looks more like a top ten player lately than even Andy Roddick, who handed Roddick a straight sets defeat this past week in Alanta in the semis. James Blake enters as an all time low 14 seed who may be able to muster some momentum, but being placed on Murray’s side of the draw, less than likely. Some other notables include the most inconsistent tennis player in history, much to the chagrin of myself and others, Marcos Baghdatis, who has garnererd great results in the past on hard courts; Mr. Beautiful: Feliciano Lopez, and Argentinian high flyer Horacio Zeballos, who has been gaining some momentum as being the next big thing out of that land of tennis gold, which has produced the likes of the ever under achieving David Nalbandian, and 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro, who is still ailing from a wrist injury. Stay tuned everybody for it may be a rockstar gala event as only LA can conjure, and with yours truly carousing the aisles in the thick of it all, stands not to dissapoint.

Almagro And Montanes Put Spain In Winner’s Circle

Spain continues to reap athletic rewards as the Spanish duo of Nicolas Almagro and Albert Montanes won the two clay-court titles on the ATP Tour this past week.

Montanes defeated Gael Monfils 6-2, 1-2 in Stuttgart before the Frenchman had to retire with a right ankle injury. It was the second title of the year for Montanes.

“I twisted my ankle on the court and it was impossible to finish the match,” said Monfils. ”The week was good. I played pretty good tennis, a lot of confidence came back. To reach a final again was pretty exciting. I had a bad experience (today) but hopefully it will be better soon and I can get back to my best level and try to reach some other finals.”

Meanwhile in Bastad, Sweden, Nicolas Almagro defeated defending champion Robin Soderling in three sets, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 to capture the SkiStar Swedish Open. Almagro improves to an impressive 6-2 in ATP finals, although one wonders why we don’t see this more often from him on the red clay.

“I didn’t play very well in the 2007 final here, but today I fought very hard and I’m really happy with the physical and mental sides to my game,” said Almagro. “It was a big match, a big fight and we were both battling like gladiators. Robin is a great player and I’m sure he will have many more chances to win this tournament in the future.”

The victories are important for the ranking points that both Spaniards will add to their 2010 totals. With the North American hard-court swing about to start I wouldn’t expect we see any results like this from either player for some time. All of the 11 career titles between them have come on clay.

Around the Corner: Clay Court Tennis in Stuttgart and Bastad

With the short grass court season already over, the ATP Tour turns to a couple of clay court tournaments in Europe this week.

Stuttgart:

The chance at redemption to a multitude of players who have missed significant portions of the tennis season due to injury is offered at Stuttgart this year.

Russian Nikolay Davydenko is the top seed in Stuttgart and will try to improve on his semi-final appearances here in 2004 and 2005. Ranked sixth in the world, Davydenko is still struggling with his game since returning from a wrist injury in June. After missing three months he returned in time for Halle and Wimbledon and lost both times in the second round on his least favorite surface of grass. Davydenko gets a first round bye and will then play the winner of the Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Jeremy Chardy match. Chardy won his first career title here a year ago but will be hard-pressed to repeat.

Frenchman Gael Monfils is seeded third and has a fairly easy looking quarter of the draw that is littered with qualifiers. Monfils also missed some time earlier in the year with injury issues and has yet to post any significant results in 2010. This tournament offers the perfect opportunity for Monfils to reach his first final of the season.

Fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon could meet up with veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third quarter-final. Simon will be have trouble living up to this seventh-seed status as he too was out of action for three months between March and June with injuries and is not yet where his game is capable of being.

In the final quarter, clay-court specialist Albert Montanes the fifth seed will likely meet up with second seeded Jurgen Melzer if they can get through the opening two rounds. Melzer is experiencing the season of his career thus far at the age of 29 by making it to the semi-finals at the French Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon. The Austrian had never before advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam.

Bastad:

In Bastad, Sweden, local hope Robin Soderling will look to defend his title from a year ago. Soderling was the first Swede to win the singles title in Bastad since his current coach, Magnus Norman, did it in 2000.

Third seeded David Ferrer won the title in 2007 and is still capable of strong results on clay. This year he has won the title in Acapulco, made the finals of Buenos Aires and the Masters-Series tournament in Rome as well as the semi-finals of four other tournaments.

Nicolas Almagro is seeded fourth and is an able clay-court player. His section seems quite routine and he should be able to find his way deep into the draw.

The bottom quarter features two tough players from Spain in veteran Tommy Robredo, who has won the Bastad title twice before (2006, 2008), and second seeded Fernando Verdasco. Robredo holds a 23-7 career record at this tournament and has a 4-4 head-to-head against Verdasco.

One interesting note when looking at the list of former doubles champions is that Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman won here on seven separate occasions and with six different partners.

Around The Corner: A Newport Preview

With Wimbledon ended it seems odd to have any grass-court tennis left and yet that is exactly what we have in the week ahead in Newport, Rhode Island. A sparse field is set for the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championship but there are a few names worth noting.

Seeded first is American Sam Querrey. After winning the grass-court title at Queen’s Club a few weeks ago, Querrey is the favourite this year to win in Newport. He finished runner-up here a year ago to Rajeev Ram. He opens the tournament against Jesse Levine.

Ram is also back to attempt to defend his title in both singles and doubles where he was victorious in both draws in 2009.

Other notable Americans include 5th seeded Mardy Fish and the 8th seeded Taylor Dent. Fish was beaten by Querrey in the Queen’s Club finals while Dent is always dangerous on a fast surface due to his imposing serve.

Dent is still trying to find his form since returning from a serious back injury that kept him off the tour for two years between 2006 and 2008. After some encouraging results a year ago Dent seems to have stumbled and holds a 4-11 record in ATP events in 2010. Perhaps a return to Newport, where he won in 2002, will help spark his game.

Canadian Frank Dancevic is also coming back from a back injury and is the lone Canuck in the draw in Newport. Dancevic will be trying to round into form as his home tournament at the Rogers Cup in Toronto is merely a month away.

Following this tournament the Davis Cup will resume with the quarter-finals followed by a few clay-court tourney’s in Europe and the start of the summer hard-court swing in North America.

NADAL STILL THE HEAVY FAVORITE AT ROLAND GARROS

As the quarter-finals at the French Open are set to begin Tuesday in Paris, all eyes will be focused on front-runner Rafael Nadal. When looking at the remaining men left in the draw, this guy is the overwhelming favorite.

World-number two Nadal is the four-time champion and has been on-fire once again this year on clay. Undefeated on the dirt so far this year, he won all three Masters 1000 level clay-court tournaments and appears to be once again unbeatable at RolandGarros. A match against clay-specialist Nicolas Almagro might push him to four sets, but a quick victory in three is still likely.

His next opponent will be Novak Djokovic who could test him for sure – test him, but ultimately not defeat him in Paris. Djokovic faces Jurgen Melzer, a first time Grand Slam quarter-finalist. This is, in fact, Melzer’s first time past the third round of a major. Time for a reality check against Djokovic.

In the top-half, world number-one Roger Federer will face Robin Soderling in a rematch of last year’s final. Soderling looks to be playing quite sharp and will not have the same nerves he did a year ago versus Roger. While Federer has stepped it up once more in a Grand Slam, I think he’s going to face a stiffer test from Soderling this time. Soderling is his most difficult opponent in this tournament thus far and I think we could see a four or five set battle between them. Roger should prevail – but do not count out the upset factorwith Soderling. He is the only man to have ever defeated Nadal at this tourney.

Somewhat forgotten is the match between Mikail Youzhny and Tomas Berdych. Flip a coin in this one folks, it could go either way. Berdych has just knocked off fourth seeded Andy Murray, while Youzhny advanced when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired after just one set. I give Berdych the edge here as it seems he may finally make-good on some of that potential we have all been talking about for years. This is only the second Grand Slam quarter-finalof his career.

Ultimately everyone is no-doubt hoping for a Rafa vs Roger final. That is the most competitive final we can hope for, but even then the odds are heavily stacked inNadal’s favor. For now, enjoy some true competition as we build towards the final on Sunday.

STOSUR SURGES AT ROLAND GARROS

By Blair Henley

A surging Sam Stosur took out four-time French Open champion and No. 22 seed Justine Henin 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Monday, snapping the Belgian’s streak of 24 straight matches won at Roland Garros.

“My nerves were simply not strong enough today,” Henin explained. “I felt very nervous, very upset, which is normally not the way I am. Maybe today I was feeling some nervous fatigue. Maybe that nervous fatigue prevented me from seeing things in a calmer way.”

After a slow start, 26-year-old Stosur used her heavy groundstrokes to keep her opponent stuck scrambling behind the baseline, and in the third set, Henin’s picturesque backhand was nowhere to be found. She dumped three into the net in the final game.

Stosur, seeded seventh, squandered her first match point with a nervous double fault, but took advantage of a short, bouncing overhead on her second try.

“I just tried to shake it off and tried to have a laugh at myself, not worry about it and get the next one in,” Stosur said of the double fault.

It was so gloomy at Roland Garros Monday that the 26-year-old Australian was forced to remove her signature sunglasses, allowing fans to see the emotion in her eyes as she sealed one of the biggest wins of her career.

“I knew what I had to do,” Stosur said. “I kept going for it and I believed in myself.”

Stosur had more clay court wins this season than anyone else on tour coming into the French Open and she made it to the semifinals here last year, but her win over Henin still was still unexpected. The Australian lost to her earlier this month in Stuttgart.

The Aussie was known primarily as a doubles specialist before she decided to focus on her singles a couple of years ago. She has previously held the No. 1 ranking in doubles, but she entered the singles Top 10 for the first time just months ago.

Serena Williams easily beat No. 18 seed Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2, 6-2 to become the last American standing in the singles draws. She will take on Stosur in the quarterfinals.

It’s safe to say Peer doesn’t like playing the Williams sisters. She has now lost 5 times each to both Serena and Venus.

Tuesday No. 3 seed Caroline Wozniacki will take on No. 17 Francesca Schiavone, No. 5 seed Elena Dementieva will play No. 19 Nadia Petrova.