Srebotnik sends Serena packing

A SHOCKED Serena Williams hailed an “unbelievable” performance from Katarina Srebotnik after crashing out of the French Open at the third-round stage yesterday.

The fifth seed, who won the title in 2002, made error after error as she fell 6-4 6-4 to Srebotnik, seeded 27, on Suzanne Lenglen court.

The Slovenian felt she produced the best display of her career to oust the American and Williams admitted she was helpless at times.

The eight-time major winner, 26, said: “She was getting balls back and making shots she has never made before, otherwise she probably would be in the top two.

“I knew it was going to be a difficult match but she just played unbelievable. I missed a lot of easy shots that could have turned the match around and I wasn’t able to capitalise.”

When asked if this was her best ever result, Srebotnik, who has never progressed beyond the fourth round at a grand slam, said: “I would say so, definitely. Because it’s a grand slam, it’s a third round and it’s my second time in the fourth round now.

“And it’s well-deserved. I had to really dig in and save some break points, so I’m really happy.

“Obviously she’s tough when she’s serving well but once I got into the rally, I had no problem playing her. With the nerves and everything else, I did really well.”

Elsewhere in the third round, second seed Ana Ivanovic defeated Caroline Wozniacki to progress.

The Serbian was pushed all the way by the promising 17-year-old from Denmark in a pulsating first set but eventually eased to a 6-4 6-1 win on Philippe Chatrier court.

Top seed Maria Sharapova, meanwhile, moved into the third round despite being taken to three sets by unseeded American Bethanie Mattek.

The Russian was a set ahead when her match was suspended yesterday evening due to bad light.

Resuming 3-2 down in the second set, she lost her way and allowed Mattek to take it to a decider but Sharapova won 6-2 3-6 6-2.

Said the Russian: “It’s been a strange tournament for me so far, from playing in difficult conditions in my first round to the long wait yesterday,” she said.

“But I know you have to be patient out there and I’m definitely getting better at that. I’m getting smarter.”

Other second-round winners yesterday were Russian seeds Vera Zvonareva (11) and Nadia Petrova (25).

Elsewhere, in the men’s competition, third seed Novak Djokovic secured a second successive straight-sets win to ease into the fourth round.

The Serbian did what was required to defeat gallant American wildcard Wayne Odesnik 7-5 6-4 6-2 on Suzanne Lenglen court.

He plays 18th seed Paul-Henri Mathieu next and looks to be improving round by round after a sluggish start to the tournament.

Fernando Verdasco will be reigning champion Rafael Nadal’s fourth consecutive left-handed opponent after he beat 15th seed Mikhail Youzhny in a hard-fought, third-round match.

Verdasco, the 22nd seed, was forced to battle manfully before ultimately easing through 7-6 (7/5) 5-7 7-5 6-1 against the Russian on Court Two, setting up an all-Spanish tussle on Sunday.

Nadal, the second seed and three-time winner, had earlier crushed 26th seed Jarkko Nieminen 6-1 6-3 6-1 to maintain his unbeaten record at Roland Garros.

French wildcard Jeremy Chardy produced a second superb display in as many matches to sink 30th seed Dimitri Tursunov 7-6 (7/1) 6-3 6-4.

Latvian teenager Ernests Gulbis showed maturity beyond his years to move serenely into the fourth round with a convincing straight-sets victory over Nicolas Lapentti.

The 19-year-old, the youngest player left in the men’s singles, swept to a 6-3 7-5 6-2 victory over the Ecuadorian.

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