SPORTS

Eleni Daniilidou stuns French Open champion in Wimbledon first round

Greek tennis player Eleni Daniilidou provided a major first-round upset at Wimbledon yesterday by ousting French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne from the prestigious tournament with a 7-6 (10-8), 2-6, 7-5 victory. The seventh-seeded Belgian, who won her fourth Grand Slam title at Roland Garros earlier this month, produced a sloppy display on Court 1 and the unseeded Daniilidou took full advantage. Both players had trouble serving and the Greek player took the first set tiebreak on her fifth set point. Henin-Hardenne, a runner-up at Wimbledon in 2001, raced through the second set but Daniilidou shrugged off a leg injury in the third set to stun her opponent, who conceded defeat after her 11th double-fault. Daniilidou squandered two match points earlier in the final set. The Belgian had opted not to play a grass court warmup event after her recent victory at Roland Garros. Interestingly, yesterday’s loss marks the first by a reigning French Open champion in Wimbledon’s first round. It was a welcome result for the 22-year-old Greek, who has plummeted in the world rankings this year. Daniilidou is currently ranked 76 after peaking at 14 a little over two years ago. She ended last year ranked 34. Daniilidou, a winner of three WTA Tour titles, has reached the fourth round in Grand Slam tournaments three times – at Wimbledon in 2002, the Australian Open in 2003, and last year’s US Open. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam the 23-year-old Henin-Hardenne has failed to capture, but she has come close on several occasions. The Belgian lost to Venus Williams in the 2001 final and then reached the semifinals in 2002 and 2003. Henin-Hardenne’s shock exit follows her absence last year from the tournament because of an energy-sapping blood virus that left her bedridden. Daniilidou will now meet America’s Laura Granville, ranked 68 in the world, for a place in the third round. Granville, 24, defeated the Czech Republic’s Klara Koukalova, ranked 41, in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. Earlier yesterday, world No.2 Maria Sharapova of Russia defended her ladies’ singles title with a straight sets (6-2, 6-2) victory over Spain’s Nuria Llagostera Vives. (Kathimerini, Reuters, AP)