Tennis: Kournikova keeps cool after fan's intervention

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The Independent Online
JUST FOR a moment yesterday the worst fears of Wimbledon's security team appeared to be realised. Anna Kournikova was on court when suddenly a spectator appeared on the edge of Court Two's lawn. You can imagine the consternation.

Well you cannot actually. The spectator was trying to get to his seat and had accidently stepped on the turf. The fact he was on the other side of the net from the Russian 17th seed, too, told its own story. It is amazing though how Kournikova seems to attract these incidents.

"I don't know what happened," she said after reaching the fourth round when her opponent Ines Gorrochategui retired with a knee injury at 7-5, 3-1 down, "but I turned round and he was already leaving. We're very close to the crowd on Court Two but I don't think it represents any danger."

Indeed, rather than condemn the claustrophobic conditions she praised them. "I like it when the courts are small and the spectators are near," she said. "It feels cosy and warm and you feel that you have less space to play and run. The game seems faster."

So Kournikova was happy and well she could be after a performance that was several notches above her first and second rounds even before her Argentine opponent began to be affected by a strained right knee. Her serve and volleys were much crisper and she was less hamstrung by errors.

"I think I'm getting better with every match," she said. "That's how it always is. You struggle in the first two matches then you get your rhythm. You're ready, you're in the tournament."

The day began with a familiar rhythm, too, because Kournikova had also been the first match on Court Two on Wednesday and a routine has been established. Opponent comes on to polite applause, Anna to a standing ovation that turns into wolf whistles when she removes her tracksuit top.

Maybe Gorrochategui had been privy to the script because she waited for the noise to die down and shouted: "You haven't seen what I've got under here yet." You could feel the neutrals shifting into her corner.

What the battle-ready Argentine did reveal, however, was a bandage on her knee which appeared only to be a precaution when she broke for a 2- 0 lead after a game of four deuces. Kournikova appeared to be in trouble but her response was impressive: five out of the next six games.

Gorrochategui broke again for 5-5 but when Kournikova took the first set after a bruising 44-minute exchange and quickly took a 3-1 lead in the next it was clear the world No 76 was struggling. Even a reinforcement to the bandage could not allow her to continue.

The result sets up a match for Kournikova that should really test the Russian's mettle, a clash of the teenagers against the sixth seeded Venus Williams, who beat France's Sarah Pitowski 6-1, 6-1.

The 19-year-old Williams has a 2-0 advantage in head-to-head meetings although Kournikova, one year younger, pointed out both defeats had been on clay. "She has a big serve and she's a big girl," she said, "so I have to out-think her. Grass is not her favourite surface, so we'll see. I'll just have to play smarter."

Steffi Graf certainly was smarter against Corina Moriariu than she had been against Mariaan de Swardt in the previous round and was rewarded with a 6-1, 6-3 victory. From 3-3 in the second set the German second seed simply motored away from the American world No 41.

France's Sandrine Testud, who reached the fourth round in the last two years, became the fourth women's seed to fall when she was beaten 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 by Thailand's Tamarine Tansugarn, who also got into the last 16 in 1998.

The 16th seed lost the initiative in the deciding set when she lost her serve twice to go 3-1 down.