Tennis: Experience proves worth

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The Independent Online
YOUTH CULTURE may be all the rage in women's tennis but the French Open quarter-finals today will have a strikingly mature look.

Only one teenager, the world No 1 Martina Hingis, will see action during the second week at Roland Garros, leaving the French crowds to savour some vintage performances from a trio of experienced favourites.

Embracing the spotlight will be Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, who between them have won every French Open crown but one since 1987. The trio's first week performances suggest they are maturing like fine French wines.

The main surprises among the women's final eight are Barbara Schwartz and Sylvia Plischke, the first two Austrians to reach the French Open quarter-finals.

Schwartz, who overcame the power-hitting of the fifth seed Venus Williams to become the first qualifier to get to the French Open women's quarter- finals, takes on Hingis.

The 18-year-old Swiss, looking to claim the only Grand Slam title to elude her, has looked confident and determined, moving smoothly through the first week without dropping a set. Perhaps more than any other tournament, experience counts at Roland Garros, with players taking years, sometimes entire careers, to come to grips with the Paris clay.

There is no one in the game with more experience than the 29-year-old Graf, who has been displaying the form that has helped her to five French titles.

Graf, the sixth seed, who advanced by giving Anna Kournikova a lesson in clay court tennis, will face the hard-hitting American second seed, Lindsay Davenport.

The defending champion, Sanchez-Vicario, whose dogged determination has allowed her to win three French crowns, will be well rested for her clash against Plischke.

The Spaniard, seeded seventh, received a walkover into the final eight when America's Mary Joe Fernandez was ruled out with a thigh injury.

Seles, the third seed and three times a winner in Paris, has not dropped a set in reaching the final eight. She will take on another experienced Spaniard, Conchita Martinez.