Serena sweats out win
Defending champion through to last eightPosted: Sunday June 01, 2003 7:24 AM
Updated: Sunday June 01, 2003 2:24 PM
PARIS (AP) -- Venus Williams may have lost to 18-year-old Russian Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round of the French Open (Full Story), but defending champion Serena Williams emerged unscathed from a first-set scare and a nasty spill to beat Ai Sugiyama 7-5, 6-3 Sunday.
The match was much more arduous than Williams' 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," Williams said. "I was a little upset with myself. But it helps me -- it's nice to have a tougher match under your belt."
Andre Agassi advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Flavio Saretta 6-2, 6-1, 7-5, but Jennifer Capriati, the 2001 champion who was seeded seventh, was upset by Russian Nadia Petrova, ranked 76th. Petrova, who won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, celebrated by punching the air and blowing a kiss to the crowd.
Sixth-seeded Lindsay 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.
Williams was down a service break twice in the first set 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 in the quarterfinals 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. The native of suburban Paris may be the crowd favorite, but she knows she'll have her hands full against 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 a hobbled 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 by beating Petra Mandula 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. The eighth-seeded American next plays No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne, who defeated 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.
Saretta entered his match against Agassi bothered by a sore muscle in his rear, and he twice required treatment during changeovers. The injury left Saretta with little chance against Agassi, who was so sharp that in one game he landed winners not just in both corners, but on them.
"Against anybody who speaks Spanish, it's a good win out there," Agassi said. "Brazilian, Spanish, Portuguese, all of it -- those are all good wins out there. Today was real good for me."
Saretta, forced far out of position during one rally, offered his racket to a spectator even before Agassi finished off the point. During the ensuing changeover, Saretta kept the ball in the air, bouncing it off the top of his feet, desperate to give the center-court crowd its money's worth.
On another sunny, steamy day, with temperatures in the 80s, Williams worked harder than she wanted. After winning every game in her previous match, the top-seeded American lost seven of the first eight points against Sugiyama, a 10-year tour veteran seeded 16th.
Williams fell behind 2-0, reached 2-all and then lost her serve again with a double-fault on break point. She had 13 unforced errors in the first five games and was often on the defensive chasing Sugiyama's deep groundstrokes into the corners.
The worst moment for Williams came when she fell racing forward for a shot. Her right ankle bent awkwardly as she went down in a tangle with the net, but she quickly got up and resumed play.
She rallied with the help of some shaky serving by her opponent. Sugiyama double-faulted on break point to make it 4-all, then hit another double-fault -- her eighth -- in the final game of the set to lose it at love.
Williams slammed a service winner to take a 4-3 lead in the second set, punctuating the shot with a shout of "Yes!" She closed the victory in 92 minutes, more than twice the length of her previous match.
"She's very fast," Sugiyama said. "She's all over. I would hit a ball down the line, and still for sure I knew the ball was coming back."
It was small consolation to Sugiyama that she won as many games
as Williams' first three opponents combined.