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Pierce Makes It a Bad Day for an American in Paris

Frenchwoman defeats top-seeded Davenport, 6-3, 6-2, in quarterfinals of the French Open.

June 01, 2005|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

PARIS — This being France, you could come close to downing a cafe au lait or pain aux raisins in the time it takes fidgety Mary Pierce to get ready to play the next point.

So imagine the slowed pace when Pierce decided to take "a moment" near the end of her match against Lindsay Davenport in their French Open quarterfinal Tuesday. Pierce is 30, and wanted to absorb the total experience.

"Just when the crowd was really cheering for me, I just looked at the scoreboard. I looked at the speedometer of the serves. I listened to the crowd cheering. I took a moment because I just said, 'This is going to make for good memories later on in my life,' " she said

She may get the chance for more. Women's champion here five years ago, Pierce dominated the top-seeded Davenport in nearly every aspect, winning, 6-3, 6-2, in 1 hour 21 minutes. The match had its bizarre Euro moment when a man dashed onto the court and took off his shirt, displaying a political statement on his chest, before security apprehended him.

It was Pierce's third victory over Davenport in 11 matches. Since winning the French Open in 2000, she has earned only one title, having been riddled with injuries, and this is the first time she has advanced past the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam event since the Roland Garros triumph. She will play No. 16 Elena Likhovtseva of Russia in Thursday's semifinals.

For Davenport, the accidental clay-court tourist, the next step is going home to Southern California to get ready for Wimbledon. She fell behind in every match here, including a 6-1, 3-1 deficit against the favored Kim Clijsters of Belgium in the fourth round.

"I just am disappointed that I just could never get better," said Davenport, who had her left leg taped high but said she had not been hampered.

"I was struggling so much and was able to win, which is a good sign. But a sign of a great player is to win when you're not playing well, which I was able to do, but then make the corrections so you don't keep playing not so well. And I could never do that here."

Pierce came out firing, hitting the lines, and put Davenport on the defensive almost immediately, taking a 4-0 lead.

Davenport had her best chance to get back in the first set, with Pierce serving at 4-2, 0-40. She squandered three break points and Pierce squirmed out of trouble to take a 5-2 lead.

Later, Pierce started making fluke shots, including a mis-hit service return that somehow plopped in the court.

Late in the match, Davenport began missing routine shots.

Said Pierce: "I even shanked a ball and it just went in deep for a winner. I was like, 'Wow, OK. This is my day. Take advantage of it.' "

Said Davenport: "Just disappointing. I'd rather lose 7-5 in the third than just get blown away."

Only one of the four women's quarterfinals went three sets: Likhovtseva defeated 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, and the teenager admitted she wasn't ready for such a big occasion.

"There were a lot of ups and downs in this match," said Karatantcheva, who was making her French Open debut. "I was kind of feeling like I was kind of 10 again."

It was a rough quarterfinal for all of the female teenagers. Seventh-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia had little trouble with another Roland Garros newcomer, 17-year-old Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, winning, 6-2, 6-2.

Former champion and No. 10 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium gave a clay-court demonstration to No. 2 Maria Sharapova of Russia. Henin-Hardenne extended her winning streak to 22 matches with a 6-4, 6-2 victory against the 18-year-old Sharapova. She will play Petrova in the semifinals.

"In the second set, she really didn't know what to do," Henin-Hardenne said in the French portion of her news conference, according to the translation. "She was totally unsettled and I could feel that."

*

Teen angst did not carry over to No. 4 Rafael Nadal and the young Spaniard advanced to the semifinals against No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland. Their eagerly awaited match will be Friday, Nadal's 19th birthday.

Federer, who has not lost a set in five matches, defeated Victor Hanescu of Romania, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-3. Nadal, the architect of two brilliant running passing shots late in the first set, had a bit more trouble against his countryman, David Ferrer. He saved three set points in the first set on his way to a 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 victory.

"This has probably been my best match of the week," said Nadal, who is on a 22-match winning streak. "There were moments of pressure against [Richard] Gasquet, also with the crowd with [Sebastien] Grosjean, and also the first round. So there have been different moments during this tournament that have been difficult, and that's helped me build up confidence."

Federer spoke of the pending marquee match.

"Well, everybody's been looking forward a little bit to this one -- both of us, first time in the semifinals of a French Open," he said.

"So it's going to be really interesting to see. For me, it's a big moment. It's one of those chances to maybe walk away with the title here."

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