PARIS — With Serena Williams "ready to step up and grab a ... wild bear right now" in the words of her father, Richard, the French Open awaits her bout with an ingenious pipsqueak.
The quarterfinal that resembles a final has materialized to lend Tuesday the promise of fracas.
Serena Williams, the Australian Open champion seeded No. 8 here, will play No. 1 Justine Henin, the twice-defending French champion, for the first time on clay since 2003 when Henin, seeded No. 4 , upended Williams, then No. 1, in a semifinal heavy on cacophony.
Other than a jolting third-set turnaround, the sound of Williams berating the chair umpire, the sight of Henin's gamesmanship, the crowd jeering Williams, Williams exiting in tears, the match's gravitas as a flashpoint of recent tennis history, and the possible overtone of the then-nascent war in Iraq, that match had nothing.
"It seems like decades ago," Williams said. "It seems very far away from now," Henin said.
Here's how far: At the time, Williams ruled the earth. Henin hadn't won a major. Williams had won the last four Grand Slam tournaments. Henin hadn't won a Grand Slam semifinal since the 2001 Wimbledon. Williams had won 33 consecutive Grand Slam matches and all 10 sets in that tournament.