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FRENCH OPEN NOTES

Former champion Williams likes her chances on the clay

May 25, 2008|From the Associated Press

PARIS -- Serena Williams is not one to play down her chances at any tournament. So it should come as no surprise she likes her title chances at the French Open.

Even if she hasn't been past the quarterfinals at Roland Garros since 2003?

Even if she didn't show up for her Italian Open quarterfinal last week because of a bad back?

"I'm pretty much insatiable. Like, I always shoot and strive for the best," the 2002 French Open champion said Friday at Roland Garros, where she is seeded fifth and could meet older sister Venus in the semifinals.

"I feel like my scale is going up right now. I feel like so far I've probably gotten to a 5 or a 6, but I'm still able to climb up," she added.

Williams pronounced herself "definitely 100% fit," and said she feels good about her game on clay. She is 9-1 on the surface this season.

"It's probably the best preparation I've had since 2002. I feel like I've played so many clay-court tournaments," she said. "I just really am feeling like a real clay-court player, which, I think, is important for me."

Williams, who will play Ashley Harkleroad of the United States in the first round, said she's added "lots of new things" to her game on clay.

Asked for details, Williams said: "Just keep watching, baby."

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Whatever tennis titles Maria Sharapova wins, she always will be seen as a fashion star.

This month, the WTA Tour wanted her to participate in a four-hour promotional photo shoot before a tournament in Rome. Sharapova initially opposed the photo shoot but eventually compromised after, she said, the WTA threatened her with a $300,000 fine.

"It was not just waking up and going on set and doing a four-hour shoot," Sharapova said Friday at Roland Garros. "You have to do wardrobe and makeup and hair, which is another two hours."

Her links to the entertainment world came up when a reporter told Sharapova she is singer Mariah Carey's favorite tennis player -- and that Carey wants to go to the U.S. Open this year.

"Oh, really? Well, I'll get her a ticket, no problem. Maybe not box access but she'll get a good ticket," Sharapova said playfully. "She'll get a front-row seat in exchange for a good ticket at her concert."

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Novak Djokovic might be watching the weather forecast more closely than any other French Open title contender.

The Australian Open champion, seeded third at Roland Garros, wants the courts as quick as possible. The less damp weather, the better, as far as he's concerned.

Djokovic lost 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 to No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the Hamburg Masters semifinals.

It was a familiar outcome for Djokovic. He exited the French Open in the 2006 quarterfinals against Nadal, and in the 2007 semifinals against him, too. They could meet in this year's semifinals.

"I lost to the same player, Nadal, who is the best player on this surface," Djokovic said. "So let's see how we go this year."

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