Sharapova Turns It on to Stun Henin

ReutersMaria Sharapova reacting after winning a point against world No. 1 Justine Henin during their quarterfinal Tuesday.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Reputations count for little in Grand Slam tennis as champion Serena Williams and world No. 1 Justine Henin found out Tuesday, both put to the sword at the quarterfinal stage of the Australian Open.

Henin had not lost a match since Wimbledon 2007 -- a run of 32 matches -- but was brought to her knees under the night sky by a rampant Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-0. It was the first time the Belgian had lost a set 6-0 since 2002.

"It's funny because I felt like I was in my own bubble today," Sharapova beamed.

"It's amazing when you go out on the court and feel you're doing the right things to beat such an amazing player as her. It's just incredible."

American powerhouse Williams had earlier relinquished her title with little more than a whimper when she was jettisoned 6-3, 6-4 by Serbia's "wounded animal" Jelena Jankovic.

"I had some issues but I don't like to make excuses," Serena said. "Definitely a problem all through the day but nothing life-threatening, so it's fine."

Her misery was compounded when she and sister Venus lost in the women's doubles.

In the men's draw, Rafael Nadal continued his assault on the first Grand Slam of the season with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 win over Finn Jarkko Nieminen.

He next meets unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who upset 14th seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.

With Serena Williams already out, Henin took to the court a strong favorite to win the title she bagged in 2004.

Her fifth-seeded foe was in an ebullient mood, however, smashing 30 winners as she took a tight first set and ripped through the second to line up a semifinal against Jankovic.

Last year's beaten finalist, Sharapova had lost six of her eight meetings with Henin but that record counted for nothing.

Herself a former world No. 1, Sharapova ran amok and left Henin wondering what might have been.

"I think that I have no excuse. She won the match. She's been the best," Henin said.

"I can tell I wasn't at my best level, and that's for sure. But the story is she won the match, and I'm going back home now.

"So it's kind of a disappointment for sure. It's very hard to be at your best level all the time."

Three-time Australian Open champion Serena was out-fought and out-thought at Rod Laver Arena.

Soon afterwards she, along with sister Venus, was out of the women's doubles, too, following a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 quarterfinal defeat by China's Yan Zi and Zheng Jie.

For Jankovic, plagued by niggling injuries, the 99-minute victory was sweet revenge for last year's fourth-round defeat at Melbourne Park.

"I'm like a wounded animal, I still keep going," the third seed smiled. "The most important thing is that I fight on the court, and I always give my best and I never give up."

Williams, known to be one of the most fearsome fighters in sport, was powerless under clear blue skies. Her shots lacked punch, her serve lacked bite and her tactics unraveled.

Spanish powerhouse Nadal simply wore down Nieminen on his way to a first semifinal appearance in Melbourne.

The three-time French Open champion saved two set points before winning the first set and gradually turned the screw.

"It's the third match that I have had set points against me in the first set so I'm very happy about [coming through] that," Nadal said.

Tsonga dominated the night match against Youzhny from the start, bombarding the Russian with his powerful serve and 35 winners. The world No. 38 took a seesaw third-set tiebreak 8-6 to clinch victory in two hours 17 minutes.