Capriati, Venus Williams ousted from Open

Posted: Monday, June 02, 2003

PARIS Venus Williams lost again in a Grand Slam tournament, only this time it wasn't against her sister.

The third-seeded Williams squandered an early lead and was beaten by 18-year-old Russian Vera Zvonareva 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the fourth round at the French Open.

Williams had lost to sister Serena in the past four major events, including last year at Roland Garros.

It was a tough day for top Americans, with Jennifer Capriati and a hobbled Lindsay Davenport losing as well.

No. 7-seeded Capriati, the 2001 champion, also was upset by a Russian. Nadia Petrova, ranked 76th, won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, then celebrated by pounding her chest, punching the air and blowing a kiss to the crowd.

Zvonareva was not quite so expressive. When Williams yanked a backhand wide on match point, the Russian teenager simply walked to the net, where she was greeted with a handshake and a smile from her op-ponent.

''Maybe I'm just too tired to be excited,'' Zvonareva said. ''You can win if you go to the court and believe it.''

She has climbed from 371st in the rankings at the beginning of last year to 21st entering the French Open.

''She did real well,'' Williams said. ''She definitely stepped in there, and I had definitely a lot of opportunities. I felt like sometimes I went for too much or went for too little.''

Sister Serena emerged unscathed from a first-set scare and a nasty spill to beat Ai Sugiyama 7-5, 6-3. The match was much more arduous than Serena's 6-0, 6-0 victory over Barbara Schett in the previous round.

''I just wasn't hitting my shots the way I was the other day,'' the younger Williams said. ''I was a little upset with myself. But it helps me it's nice to have a tougher match under your belt.''

No. 6-seeded Davenport was forced to quit, aggravating a strained toe on her left foot that has bothered her for about a month. She was trailing No. 24 Conchita Martinez 6-4, 2-0.

Andre Agassi advanced by beating Flavio Saretta 6-2, 6-1, 7-5.

Venus Williams entered the match well aware of Zvonareva, who pushed Serena Williams to three sets in the fourth round at Roland Garros last year.

The match was a backcourt slugfest. Zvonareva, seeded 22nd, went skidding into both corners retrieving shots to keep rallies going, often until her opponent made a mistake.

Williams committed 75 unforced errors and hit 12 double-faults to account for 87 of the 100 points Zvonareva won. Williams was broken six times.

Zvonareva held to reach 4-all in the final set, hit a forehand winner on the baseline to break for 5-4, then served out the match. Williams lost six of the last seven points and committed four errors in the final game.

''Each match is tough if it's a loss, especially if it's a Grand Slam,'' Williams said. ''They're all really disappointing.''

The tournament was the first for Williams since an abdominal strain forced her to stop playing during the final May 4 in Poland.

''I don't think I had the kind of preparation I wanted,'' Williams said. ''I just wasn't able to do all the things that I would normally like to do.''

Petrova, the Roland Garros juniors champion in 1998, hit 37 winners to eliminate Capriati.

''I thought I had pretty good chances in this tournament,'' Capriati said. ''Goes to show you, you just never know.''

Serena Williams was down a service break twice in the first set against Sugiyama but rallied from a 4-2 deficit. She escaped injury in the sixth game when she slipped on the clay chasing a shot and tumbled into the net, landing hard on her left side.

The victory was the 32nd in a row in Grand Slam events for Williams, who has beaten sister Venus in the past four major finals. Her opponent Tuesday will be France's Amelie Mauresmo, who upset Williams in the Rome semifinal May 17.

''She's definitely going to have the crowd on her side,'' Williams said. ''I'm just going to go out there and do my best and really enjoy myself. I've played in the most hostile arenas possible, so it definitely won't bother me at all.''

Mauresmo, seeded fifth, advanced by beating Magui Serna 6-1, 6-2 but knows what awaits with Williams.

''Four Grand Slams in a row what can you say except total respect?'' Mauresmo said. ''You've really got to try and get your head clear of all the media hype around the Williamses, and realize that these are not players from outer space.''

Martinez, at 31 the oldest player remaining in the women's draw, advanced against Davenport, who said her toe began bothering her early in the match.

''It was hurting too much to play and move the way I need to play to beat anybody out here,'' Davenport said.

Martinez will next face No. 2 Kim Clijsters, who played 24 minutes before winning a game, then raced past No. 15 Magdalena Maleeva 0-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Chanda Rubin reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for the third time, beating Petra Mandula 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. The eighth-seeded American next plays No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne, who celebrated her 21st birthday by beating No. 19 Patty Schnyder 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

In the final third-round match, three-time champion Gustavo Kuerten beat No. 21 Gaston Gaudio 7-6 (1), 7-5, 5-7, 6-3. Play was suspended midway through the third set Saturday because of darkness.

No. 4 Carlos Moya, the 1998 champion, beat No. 13 Jiri Novak 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. He'll next face Dutchman Martin Verkerk, who upset No. 11 Rainer Schuettler 6-3, 6-3, 7-5. Verkerk had never won a Grand Slam match coming into the tournament.

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