Henin faces first big test as she confronts old rival Sharapova

  • @PaulN54

Justine Henin has won her last 23 matches and her last 39 sets here at the French Open but today the 27-year-old Belgian faces the first major test of her ambition to reclaim the title she last won three years ago.

The four-times champion, who completed a 6-3, 6-3 victory yesterday over the Czech Republic's Klara Zakopalova, now takes on Maria Sharapova, who beat Kirsten Flipkens by the same score.

The two former world No 1s are both trying to recapture old glories. Henin came out of a 20-month retirement in January, while Sharapova has spent much of the last two years recovering from injury. The 23-year-old Russian did not play for seven months following shoulder surgery and an elbow problem recently kept her out for almost two months.

Although the French is the only Grand Slam title to have eluded her, Sharapova won a clay-court tournament in Strasbourg last week and has a decent record here. In her last six visits she has never failed to reach the fourth round and three years ago she made the semi-finals.

Henin has won six of their nine meetings, including a quarter-final here in 2005, but Sharapova won their last two Grand Slam matches, in New York in 2006 and in Melbourne in 2008.

"I expect a big fight, as we've always had in the past,'' Henin said. "I'll have to raise my level and keep my intensity, concentration and motivation really high.''

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion, was beaten in three sets by Maria Kirilenko, while the Williams sisters both progressed with the minimum of fuss, Serena beating Julia Goerges 6-1, 6-1 and Venus beating Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-4.