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Sharapova takes a toll on Henin with Williams gone
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By John Pye

MELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Williams stumbled one round short of a rematch, so Maria Sharapova had to unload a year's worth of retribution on somebody else.

Justine Henin caught the brunt of it.

Sharapova advanced to the Australian Open semifinals for the fourth straight year with a convincing 6-4, 6-0 win over top-ranked Henin, snapping the Belgian star's 32-match winning streak.

"Even though I beat Justine, it's definitely not over," the 20-year-old Russian star said. "I still have a lot of business to take care of."

Defending champion Williams had slumped 6-3, 6-4 earlier in the afternoon to third-ranked Jelena Jankovic, who reached the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the first time and only the third time in a major.

Williams was unseeded and ranked No. 81 when she made her stunning run to an eighth Grand Slam title 12 months ago, punctuating that with an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 win over Sharapova in one of the most lopsided Grand Slam finals.

It was a big setback for Sharapova, who struggled with a shoulder problem for most of the season and her ranking slipped outside the top 5.

But the winner of two Grand Slam events started returning to her best at the WTA championships in November before losing in three sets to Henin in three hours, 24 minutes - among the dozen longest women's tour matches in the Open era.

She turned the tables in only 1:38 on Tuesday, inflicting the first 6-0 set on Henin since 2002.

Henin, who struggled with her serve and was broken five times by Sharapova, said she had a minor concern over a lingering knee injury but put the loss down as an inevitability.

Sharapova will be looking back for lessons to take into the semis against Jankovic, her old tennis academy pal.

Jankovic has two Serbian compatriots in the quarterfinals today.

No. 4-ranked Ana Ivanovic is aiming to end the run of another Williams when she plays Serena's sister, Venus, for the right to meet the winner of the other quarterfinal between No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova and No. 29 Agnieszka Radwanska.

On the men's side, Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays David Ferrer of Spain and defending champion Roger Federer go against No. 12 James Blake.

Blake is 0-7 against Federer, who beat him in the 2006 U.S. Open quarterfinals.

But he's taking heart from Federer's last two matches, when he was taken to 10-8 in the fifth set against Serbia's Janko Tisparevic and had to save set points against Tomas Berdych.

No. 2 Rafael Nadal, the only player to beat Federer at the last 10 Grand Slams, advanced to his first Australian Open semifinal with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 24 Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.

He will play 22-year-old Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 (6) late Tuesday.

The 38th-ranked Tsonga has only played four previous majors due to a combination of back, shoulder and abdominal injuries and never won a title at the elite level, but has already upset No. 9 Andy Murray and No. 8 Richard Gasquet so far at Melbourne Park.

Despite being in better physical condition this time around, Williams still could not go beyond the quarters for the fourth consecutive major.

Williams looked sluggish and her serve misfired against Jankovic, contributing to seven service breaks.

She had time to reflect on the singles loss when she combined with Venus in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 doubles quarterfinal loss to Chinese pair Yan Zi and Zheng Jie.

Williams did not seem to possess the same aggressiveness she used to overcome match points in early rounds last year and beat six seeded players en route to the 2007 title.

Instead, she was constantly angry with herself and even got a code violation for smashing her racket.

Jankovic has been hampered by a thigh problem since helping Serbia to the Hopman Cup final, where it lost to the Serena Williams-led United States.