Bartoli marches on as Davenport limps out

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The Independent Online

Lindsay Davenport, the seventh seed, limped out of the Nasdaq-100 Open here yesterday after straining her right hamstring while losing the opening set of her fourth-round match against Marion Bartoli, an 18-year-old French qualifier, 6-0.

Bartoli's advance to the quarter-finals brightened the mood in the French camp after a disappointing start to the day by Amélie Mauresmo, the eighth seed. Chanda Rubin, ranked in the top 10 yesterday for the first time in seven years, looked every inch the consummate professional as she dismantled Mauresmo 6-0, 6-2.

On days like this, the 5ft 6in Rubin is technically as sound and as competitive as any player in the women's game. Last time she reached the top 10, in 1996, it took the skills of Steffi Graf to defeat her in the final here. Immediately afterwards, wrist surgery halted Rubin's progress, and injuries continued to hamper the 27-year-old judge's daughter from Lafayette, Louisiana. "I've worked hard and I've had some minor setbacks along the way," she said, adding that victory at Eastbourne last June had raised her confidence.

Mauresmo, one of several players to fall victim to a stomach bug during the Indian Wells tournament before coming to this Florida event, acknowledged that only Rubin's smooth play had unsettled her yesterday. She lost the first nine games, as the opening set flashed by in 21 minutes, then managed to break Rubin's serve to turn the proceedings into the semblance of a contest.

Rubin was completely in control until double-faulting to 15-30 in the fourth game of the second set. Mauresmo won eight of the next 10 points, and Rubin had to save a break point before holding for 4-2. Although she broke Mauresmo to love in the next game, Rubin had to recover from 0-40 before serving out the match after 52 minutes.

Todd Martin, asked about the crowd's support during his 7-6, 6-4 win against his 20-year-old compatriot Andy Roddick in the third round of the men's singles on Sunday night, replied: "I thought the people over 72 were on my side and everybody else was on his."

Martin is 32 but, with his grey hair and injury-ravaged body, looks years older than his American contemporaries, especially Michael Chang, 31, who is in his last season, Pete Sampras, 31, who seems to be on the brink of retirement, and Andre Agassi, who is actually three months older than the tall man from Michigan.

What keeps Martin going is the maturity of his game, which will come only with the experience of trial and error in the case of Roddick and his fellow American prospects, James Blake, 23, Mardy Fish and Taylor Dent, both 21, and Robbie Ginepri, 20.

Roddick relies on a mighty serve and a powerful forehand. He tends to come unhinged on his returns, his backhand is tentative in comparison to the forehand, and he is still learning to time his moves to the net. He is not a finished article, and both he and his coach, the Frenchman Tarik Benhabiles, will need to be patient amid the clamour for faster progress.