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Serena Has That Look in This Rematch

She looks sharp in 6-1, 6-2 victory over a jittery Mauresmo, who dealt Williams only her second loss of the year two weeks ago.

June 04, 2003|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

PARIS — Amelie Mauresmo played one magnificent game Tuesday in the French Open quarterfinals.

She was aggressive with her backhand, slapping the one-hander from side to side. She went to the net to hit winning volleys. Her predatory service returns forced her opponent into a double fault and into giving her five break points.

And Mauresmo could convert none of them. Then Serena Williams earned her first match point in the eighth game of the second set. Williams smashed a dust-kicking serve and Mauresmo hit a backhand into the net.

In a matter of 1 hour 4 minutes, Mauresmo managed one nerveless, free-swinging, fun-loving game. Otherwise Williams never gave Mauresmo breathing room.

The winner of four consecutive championships in Grand Slam events, the top-seeded Williams seems zeroed in on the fifth after her decisive 6-1, 6-2 victory over fifth-seeded Mauresmo on the Philippe Chatrier show court at Roland Garros.

Two weeks ago, Mauresmo had dealt Williams one of her two losses this year. It was in the semifinals of the Italian Open and Mauresmo, 23, had played with confidence often missing from her game in a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 win.

In Thursday's semifinals, Williams, 21, will play fourth-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, who eliminated eighth-seeded American Chanda Rubin, 6-3, 6-2. The other Belgian left in the draw, second-seeded Kim Clijsters, also advanced to the semifinals where she will play 76th-ranked Russian Nadia Petrova.

Clijsters was not bothered by the spins and slices of 31-year-old veteran Conchita Martinez, and she won easily, 6-2, 6-1. Petrova, 20, who had already upset Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati, did the same with her 22nd-seeded countrywoman Vera Zvonareva, winning, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. Zvonareva, 18, had knocked out Serena's sister, Venus, in the fourth round.

On the basis of her victory over Williams in Rome, and on the strength of her steady play here at home over the last 10 days, it appeared that the talented Mauresmo had overcome her historic jitters.

But within 10 minutes Tuesday, Mauresmo trailed Williams, 4-0, had served three double faults and had won only three of the first 19 points.

"I was a little bit tense," Mauresmo said in an honest assessment of her unsteady play. She had five winners. Williams had 24. Mauresmo had 34 unforced errors.

"It's hard to play when so many expectations are on your shoulders," Williams said. "And Amelie was doing so well here. For her to play a top player on center court, in front of an amazing crowd and almost everyone wants you to win, it could get a little nerve-wracking. I could actually tell in warm-up she was nervous."

Williams, who had played with grim focus, said, "I never feel pressure."

This was Williams' 33rd straight triumph in major tournaments. If she wins her second consecutive French Open title, Williams will tie Margaret Court with 35 straight major wins. Ahead will be Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf who each won six straight Grand Slam events and 45 straight matches.

"I didn't know this stuff," Williams said. "I'm not thinking about it. I have to beat Justine to get there."

Coincidentally, Henin-Hardenne is the only other player to have beaten Williams this year, in the final of a tournament at Charleston, S.C., in April.

"Serena's the favorite for sure," Henin-Hardenne said. "She is playing so well in the last months and years now. And she played an unbelievable match today. But we'll see on the court."

Henin-Hardenne, who turned 21 this week, is making her second semifinal appearance here. She has worked hard on her serve and held at love four times against Rubin, who has never gotten past the quarterfinals here.

Petrova is the first Russian semifinalist at the French since Olga Morozova in 1975 and had risen to 29 in the rankings early in 2002 before missing seven months of play because of a foot injury.



French Open Women


* Serena Williams (1) vs. Justine Henin-Hardenne (4), Belgium

* Nadia Petrova, Russia, vs. Kim Clijsters (2), Belgium

* When: Thursday, 5 a.m.


* Head-to-head: Williams leads Henin-Hardenne, 4-2; Clijsters leads Petrova, 1-0.

French Open women's low-ranked semifinalists:

99 ... Brigitte Simon, France, 1978

87 ... Clarisa Fernandez, Argentina, 2002

76 ... Nadia Petrova, Russia, 2003

53 ... Nicole Provis, Australia, 1988

47 ... Camille Benjamin, United States, 1984

47 ... Renata Tomanova, Czechoslovakia, 1976

40 ... Florenta Mihai, Romania, 1977

Of the players listed, only Tomanova reached the finals, losing to Sue Barker 6-2, 0-6, 6-2.

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