Sugiyama smashes final hopes for Hingis

BELGIAN pair Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne continued their march into the last 16 but there will be no fairytale final for former Wimbledon champion Martina Hingis.

Second seed Clijsters and world number three Henin-Hardenne have yet to drop a game and they remain on course for a semi-final duel.

After breezing through her first two matches, Hingis also had high hopes of bridging a nine-year gap by regaining the title she lifted as a 16-year-old.

But she met unexpected resistance from Japanese veteran Ai Sugiyama, who is one round away from matching her previous best result on her 14th consecutive visit to Wimbledon.

Sugiyama, who turns 30 next Wednesday, won the first set but trailed 3-0 in the third before winning six of the last seven games to clinch a 7-5 3-6 6-4 win. She set up a fourth-round tie with French qualifier Severine Bremond, who beat Argentinian clay-courter Gisela Dulko, the 31st seed, 7-6 5-7 7-5.

Hingis started feeling the effects of a thigh strain and admitted her match was “very draining” but offered no excuses for the defeat.

While one seasoned campaigner bit the dust, the dream continued for debutant Na Li, the Chinese number one who put out fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Li’s 3-6 6-2 6-3 win equalled the best-ever performance by a Chinese woman at a Grand Slam event.

Kuznetsova, the former US Open champion who had won both previous matches against Li, won the first set but Li levelled and broke the world number six twice in the decider.

Jie Zheng, who set the previous best run in Paris two years ago, failed to join her compatriot in the last 16 when she lost 6-3 6-2 to Clijsters. Another Chinese girl, Shuai Peng, plays 16th seed Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, tomorrow.

Henin-Hardenne, yet to add Wimbledon to her Grand Slam triumphs, remained on course for a fourth semi-final in six years with a 6-2 6-3 win over Russian teenager Anna Chakvetadze. She will face 15th seed Daniela Hantuchova, who beat Slovenia’s Katarina Srebotni 6-4 7-6.

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