U.S. OPEN Henin-Hardenne loses match, then No. 1 ranking
Andre Agassi won to set up a quarterfinal match with top-ranked Roger Federer.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Only at the very end did Justine Henin-Hardenne show the grit that made her tennis' No. 1 player. And by then, it was too late.
After scrambling to save three match points, the defending U.S. Open champion was eliminated Monday night by Nadia Petrova 6-3, 6-2.
Henin-Hardenne fell one win shy of the quarterfinals, marking the earliest exit by the Open's top-seeded woman since Billie Jean King pulled out during her third-round match in 1973 because of illness.
"I never felt good in this tournament. I never felt free in my head. I never felt 100 percent in the court," Henin-Hardenne said. "It wasn't my day."
The loss cost Henin-Hardenne her No. 1 ranking. Taking over will either be Lindsay Davenport, who defeated Venus Williams 7-5, 6-4 earlier in the day, or Amelie Mauresmo.
Andre Agassi also won, beating marathon man Sargis Sargsian 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and setting up a most attractive quarterfinal pairing. Next up for the popular, two-time champion: top-seeded Roger Federer.
"Should be a lot of fun," Agassi said. "I mean, there's nothing more you ask for than to play a big event against the best player in this environment. It's time to bring the best tennis."
Federer won by walkover when No. 16 Andrei Pavel withdrew because of a herniated disc in his lower back.
On Wednesday, he keeps up his quest to become the first man since 1988 to win three Grand Slam championships in a season.
"That's definitely something I'm looking forward to. I've never played the big matches at the Open. Not at night sessions," Federer said. "This is a big occasion for me to prove myself, to be deserving to be on the big stage."
Tim Henman and Dominik Hrbaty also advanced, as did Shinobu Asagoe. Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Mary Pierce 7-6 (5), 6-2 and will face Petrova.
Today, Jennifer Capriati plays Serena Williams. Mauresmo, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt also are in action.
Seeded 14th, Petrova finished off the biggest win of her career with an ace down the middle. She had lost all five previous matches against Henin-Hardenne, and it took until the second set for Petrova to believe her time had come.
"I was a little bit doubting that I can still pull this match out because, knowing her experience, I was thinking she would change something in the game and start playing maybe different tennis, be more consistent, be in charge of the game," she said.
Henin-Hardenne was out for nearly three months because of a viral infection before coming back to win an Olympic gold medal. She said she felt a little flush at Flushing Meadows.
"For sure, I'm not at my best level," she said. "During the whole tournament, I was feeling less energy."
Davenport was strong the whole way, outlasting Williams in an outstanding final game that lasted 13 minutes and 24 points.
Davenport won on her fifth match point against a most familiar opponent: she now leads Williams 13-12 lifetime, and they've split eight Slam matches.
"A tough one to get through," said Davenport, who will take on the 62nd-ranked Asagoe. "I wanted to win so badly, and I played such a great, calm match until that point, and then let a few errors creep in."
Davenport has won more than her share, though she's often been overshadowed by more showy players.