Henin retirement casts gloom over Rome Masters

May 15th, 2008 - 12:11 pm ICT by admin  

Rome, May 15 (DPA) The unexpected retirement of world number one Justine Henin has cast a shadow over the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Rome Masters, with top seed Ana Ivanovic crashing to a disheartening defeat in her opening match. The Serbian beauty was stunned in two hours and 21 minutes by qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 in the first round Wednesday.

Meanwhile Russian Maria Sharapova had to battle it out against Czech Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, while third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova beat fellow Russian Olga Govortsova 6-2, 6-0 and defending champion and fourth seed Jelena Jankovic defeated Italian Flavia Pennetta 6-1, 6-4.

Williams sisters Venus and Serena romped to victories as one of their biggest rivals quit the game to start what she called another phase of her life.

Fifth seed Serena stopped Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko 6-2, 6-0, while seventh-seeded elder sibling Venus overcame Australian Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-1.

However, Henin’s unexpected retirement overshadowed the day. The game took a back seat as the 25-year-old Belgian, a seven-time Grand Slam Champion, quit the sport at the height of her prowess.

“If she made that decision, then it’s probably the best decision for her,” said Venus, the defending Wimbledon champion.

“My prayers are with her so that she can continue to lead the life that’s best for her. She was a great opponent who always challenged herself to play her best tennis, no matter what the circumstances. She was just a real fighter,” she added.

Ivanovic, 20, said she could not imagine a similar scenario for herself - even in the depths of a bad defeat.

“The news is very surprising, but my goals haven’t changed my position, where I stand,” said the world number three.

“Working hard is something that drives me and motivates me. Obviously I still have so many things I want to achieve. To achieve these things, I’m certainly not thinking about retirement at all,” she added.

In the other matches, Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli hammered French compatriot Virginie Razzano 6-4, 7-5 while Swiss Patty Schnyder, playing her second match of the day due to Tuesday’s rain, beat Virginia Ruano Pascal 6-1, 6-0.

Russian tenth seed Vera Zvonareva advanced over Czech Iveta Benesova 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 while Poland’s number 12 Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Italian Roberta Vinci 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Sara Errani flew the home colours upsetting number 11 Hungarian Agnes Szavay 6-0, 6-3.

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