Venus, Serena roll, reach first French semisPosted: Tuesday June 04, 2002 11:17 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 04, 2002 6:24 PM
PARIS (AP) -- Big Sis went out and made a past French Open champion look utterly hapless at Roland Garros. Then Little Sis did, too.
So much for the idea that Venus and Serena Williams are vulnerable on clay.
Displaying similar power and versatility, Venus finished off Monica Seles 6-4, 6-3, right before Serena dismissed Mary Pierce 6-1, 6-1 Tuesday, putting each Williams in her first French Open semifinal.
With one more victory apiece, Team Williams would meet in the final and make this tournament another Sister Slam -- just like at the U.S. Open, where Venus beat Serena in the first major final between siblings in more than 100 years.
But first, there's a tough assignment for Serena (15 months younger than 21-year-old Venus): facing defending champion Jennifer Capriati, who struggled a bit before eliminating Jelena Dokic 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
In her best previous French Open showing, Serena lost to Capriati in the 2001 quarterfinals.
"Right now, I'm really not focused on, 'Hey, I got past the quarters,'" said Serena, who'll move up to No. 2 -- behind new No. 1 Venus -- in next week's rankings by beating Capriati. "I want to do a couple of steps better than that."
Venus, a first-round loser last year, plays 87th-ranked Clarisa Fernandez of Argentina, the first unseeded woman in the final four since Capriati in 1990.
After the Williams' victories, Capriati and Dokic came out for the day's last quarterfinal and interrupted an impromptu autograph session in the stands, where "Friends" star Matthew Perry ("Just a good friend," Capriati said, smiling) was sitting behind her father, Stefano.
Neither Capriati nor the No. 7-seeded Dokic was brilliant as they traded thwacks in fading light. The deciding factor: Capriati came through with seven aces, while Dokic had 14 double faults, including on match point.
Fernandez beat friend and practice partner Paola Suarez 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1 in a quarterfinal whose only real flavor was provided by the aroma of a fat cigar smoked by a man in the third row of a sponsor's box behind one baseline.
Perhaps neither Argentine really wanted to beat the other: On set point in the tiebreaker, Suarez conceded an ace when a line judge called Fernandez's serve out. When the match ended with Fernandez, a 5-foot-10 1/2 left-hander, winning a fifth straight game by tapping a forehand down the line, they met at the net, slapped hands and hugged.
In the only men's quarterfinal completed, 20th-seeded Albert Costa took the last 10 games of the match to top Guillermo Canas 7-5, 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-0. Costa had 72 unforced errors in the first three sets, 18 in the final two.
Costa, who ousted three-time champion Gustavo Kuerten in the fourth round, advances to his first major semifinal in his 25th Grand Slam tournament.
The day's other quarter was stopped because of darkness with two-time runner-up Alex Corretja leading Andrei Pavel 7-6 (5), 7-5, 4-5.
Against Seles, the 6-1 Venus didn't just pound the ball from both wings and sling serves approaching 120 mph. She also got to nearly all of the 1990-92 French Open champion's sharply angled strokes, each delivered with an "I-just-saw-a-mouse" shriek.
Seles gave away too many free points: She had 36 unforced errors (15 more than Venus) and double faulted in each of the last three games in which her serve was broken.
"I was wavering: 'What should I do? Should I pressure her or not?' That's not a good situation against someone like Venus," said Seles, who is 1-7 against her.
Venus did a better job of withstanding all the distractions: loud cracks of thunder preceding a 48-minute rain delay, wailing sirens, ringing cell phones, overflying jets.
She also did a better job of constructing points.
"I've always felt I had the groundstrokes and the speed to play well here. It just hasn't happened yet," said Venus, the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion each of the past two years. "More than anything, I'm just not trying to hit every ball so hard."
Likewise, '99 U.S. Open champion Serena has finesse. One example came on the final point of the first set, when Pierce actually put Serena on her heels. Barely getting to a strong approach shot, Serena lofted a backhand topspin lob that floated over the 2000 French Open winner and landed on a corner.
Granted, Pierce hasn't been at her best for some time, plagued by back and other injuries. But she dropped just 20 games in her first four matches in Paris and might be the biggest hitter in the women's game not named Williams.
Serena made her look downright ordinary for 49 minutes, much to the chagrin of a crowd whose cheers of "Allez, Maah-reee!" sounded like pleas by the end.
Notes: Venus and Serena would be the first siblings to be 1-2 in tennis' rankings. ... The 20-year-old Fernandez took up tennis seriously just five years ago. She's the first Argentine woman in a Grand Slam tournament semifinal since Gabriela Sabatini at the 1995 U.S. Open. ... Pop star Shakira was in the stands for Capriati-Dokic.