Sharapova sees herself as underdog against Mauresmo

New York, Sept 08: Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin-Hardenne stayed on course on Wednesday for their third grand slam final of the year when both scored straight sets wins in the quarter-finals of US Open.

Top seed Mauresmo of France, who won the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles, cruised past Dinara Safina of Russia 6-2, 6-3 in a lop-sided encounter.

Second seed Henin-Hardenne of Belgium topped Lindsay Davenport of the United States 6-4, 6-4 in a match of the highest quality.

Mauresmo has the hardest task in the last four going up against Russian glamour girl Maria Sharapova who was made to work hard against Tatiana Golovin of France before coming through 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/0).

Henin-Hardenne will start strong favourite against surprise packet Jelena Jankovic of Serbia who made it through on Tuesday before rain suspended play, defeating fourth seed Elena Dementieva of Russia 6-2, 6-1.

The champion here in 2003, Henin-Hardenne defeated 1998 winner Davenport for the seventh consecutive time, breaking the American at key moments in each of the two sets.

"Lindsay played a great match. She was at an unbelievable level," she said.

"I had to raise my level and be at my top to win today. I knew I could lose if I was just a little bit under this level."

Mauresmo said that after years of feeling uncomfortable at Flushing Meadows, she had finally grown to appreciate the particularities of the US Open.

That showed against Safina as the world No.1 played her best match of the tournament after struggling in the early rounds and then finding her form in the deciding set against old nemesis Serena Williams in the fourth round.

She now stands just two games away from being the first player since Williams in 2002 to win three grand slam events in the same year.

"I have trouble thinking that I could be doing that," the 27-year-old said. "But it feels good."

Tournament top draw Sharapova had coasted through the first four rounds losing just 15 games in the process but in former Florida sparring partner Golovin she hit her first real obstacle.

The Russian-born 18-year-old refused to be awed by the big-hitting, big-screaming diva of women's tennis giving as good as she got in a no-holds barred clash.

But she came out decidedly second best in both tie-breaks as Sharapova proved more adpet at controlling her nerves.

"She's one tough cookie and we have always had tough matches," Sharapova said of her opponent with whom she used to train as a youngster at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.

Turning to Mauresmo against whom she has lost three times in three matches, the last being in the semi-finals at this year's Wimbledon, Sharapova said she would be the underdog.

"She's the one to beat right now. I've nothing to lose as she is playing the best tennis of her career."

Bureau Report

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