Myskina's dominance earns presidential seal of approval

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The Independent Online

"Whenever he has watched me before, I have never lost," smiled Myskina. "So I hope he is going to stay around." Yeltsin, who ceased running Russia seven years ago, is atennis buff and Myskina revealed that he follows the progress of all Russian players, whether resident in the country (like her) or not, like Maria Sharapova.

"Whenever we do something really great on a tennis court he always invites us for tea or lunch to celebrate together," she said. "He gives his heart for tennis, he's the biggest fan I have ever known."

Having lost her title here a year ago, crashing to first-round defeat in a summer made miserable by her mother's struggle with cancer, Myskina is delighted to be playing positive tennis with a smile again. Just as well, since today she faces the champion, Justine Henin-Hardenne, for a place in the quarter-finals. While acknowledging the Belgian's undoubted assets, Myskina said: "Justine is a normal person who can make mistakes, and I know I can win if I play my best."

The fifth-seeded Henin certainly made mistakes aplenty before sweeping aside the Italian Tathiana Garbin 6-4 6-0. There was an element of revenge involved here, Garbin having knocked Henin out in the first round of the 2004 French Open when they last met, but it was revenge unimpressively achieved until Henin acknowledged the level of opposition, put her foot down and won the last nine games from a 3-4 deficit.

Garbin's progress was eased, and her ambitions lifted, by a stream of errors from the Henin forehand side, most of them in those first seven games. However, once Henin pressed the accelerator she was in a class of one, surging to the net to heighten Garbin's waxing panic and hasten her end.

It will be different today, she acknowledged. "I will have to go to another level if I want to beat Anastasia. She has won a Slam, so she has experience that not many on the tour possess. And we have always had tough matches in the past." Not so tough, actually. Henin leads their head-to-head by six wins to two.

Henin's compatriot, Kim Clijsters, saw off Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-4. The condition of her back is a concern for the second seed, though her form was also a worry early on when she conceded a 3-1 lead.

Clijsters brushed that aside, saying it was necessary to attack and take risks against Medina "since the only thing she does really good is rally forever". Clijsters is also happy to see all the Parisian buzz being directed at the top seed and home-town girl, Amélie Mauresmo, with people in the city being urged by placard bearers to email support. "I don't like all that attention," Clijsters smiled.

Next up for her is the tall, lean Slovak, Daniela Hantuchova, who did her best, once more, to seize defeat from the jaws of victory, beating France's Nathalie Dechy 6-3 3-6 10-8 after she had served at 5-3 in the final set and had to survive Dechy serving for the win at 7-6.

A brave smile was all that the 19-year-old Croatian, Ivana Lisjak, could manage as Martina Hingis' second ace of a 45-minute clean-up operation scudded past her to give the Swiss a 6-1 6-1 passage into the last 16. In truth Lisjak was nothing more than pink-clad cannon fodder for the predatory Hingis, who is telling everyone that she has never played better.

With the Israeli Shahar Peer upsetting the sixth seed, Elena Dementieva, 6-4 7-5, Hingis would appear to have her path considerably smoothed. If Peer perishes to the resurgent Hingis, the Swiss would be into the quarter-finals, where she would face the winner of the Clijsters v Hantuchova match. No wonder Hingis' smile is much more than a brave one.