Sharapova powers past Henin

MELBOURNE - World number one and top seed Justin Henin backed Maria Sharapova to win the Australian Open title yesterday after the fifth seed ended her 32-match winning streak in devastating fashion.

The Russian made a mockery of Henin's status as the most dominant women's player for a generation as she tore apart the Belgian to win their quarterfinal 6-4 6-0.

The glamorous fifth seed not only inflicted Henin's first defeat since July last year, but dished out one of the heaviest losses in the Belgian's career.

It was the 25-year-old's first 6-0 drubbing in six years, the first time she has failed to win less than five games since 2002 and her first loss in two sets since 2006.

"She just did everything better than me today," a shell-shocked Henin conceded.

"She served consistently, she was much more aggressive and looked like it was her day and probably her tournament. She's in great shape."

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal reached his first Australian Open semifinal yesterday with plenty of gas left in the tank for coming battles after a straight sets victory over Finland's Jarkko Nieminen.

The mercurial Spanish second seed broke the 24th seed's serve six times and won the pressure points to come away with a commanding 7-5 6-3 6-1 victory in two hours and 19 minutes.

Nadal will now play unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who upset Russian 14th seed Mikhail Youzhny 7-5 6-0 7-6 (8-6). - Sapa-AFP