Capriati back in French Open semis after 11 years

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jennifer Capriati beat error–prone Serena Williams 6–2, 5–7, 6–2 today to return to the semifinals of the French Open for the first time in 11 years.

Capriati, seeded fourth, sealed the victory on her fourth match point after a tense 14–point final game, which ended when Williams committed her 65th unforced error on a long forehand.

Capriati plays top–seeded Martina Hingis in the semifinals on Thursday. Belgian teen–agers Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin will square off for the remaining place in the final.

In the men's draw, defending champion Gustavo Kuerten beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov to set up a repeat of last year's semifinal against Juan Carlos Ferrero, who beat sixth–seeded Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets.

Capriati punched her fists into the air with relief and joy after her win and blew kisses to the stands.

"I'm happy that I got through," said Capriati, who last reached the semis at Roland Garros in 1990 at age 14. That was her first semifinal at a Grand Slam, and she did not win a Grand Slam title until last January, when she took the Australian Open.

"It was kind of a deja vu," said Capriati after the drawn–out final game, which featured three match points. She wasted eight championship points before losing to Venus Williams in the final of the Ericsson Open in March.

"I tried not to get mad and didn't panic," she added. "I kept my confidence and eak points. She was playing her first tournament since the Ericsson Open, where she lost to Capriati in the quarters.

"It came very easy back then," said Capriati, referring to her 1990 showing at the French. "I really had to work for it this time."

Hingis moved a step closer to taking the one Grand Slam title that has eluded her by defeating Italy's Francesca Schiavone 6–1, 6–4.

"I haven't really been tested, but it's nice to go through a draw like this," said Hingis, whose only seeded opponent was No. 17 Sandrine Testud, whom she beat in the fourth round.

Hingis has won every other Grand Slam title at least once. She was twice a runner–up at Roland Garros, most recently in 1999, when she was three points away from beating Steffi Graf for the championship.

Kuerten proved again why he is favored to retain the title by defeating seventh–seeded Kafelnikov 6–1, 3–6, 7–6 (3), 6–4.

The top–seeded player, who narrowly escaped defeat in the fourth round, was back in top form against the 1996 champion, repeatedly hitting searing backhand winners.

"Two days ago I was almost out," said Kuerten, who saved a match point against American qualifier Michael Russell on Sunday. "Again in the semifinals, it's a great feeling."

The Brazilian sped through his first set in 20 minutes, then had trouble against Kafelnikov's powerful forehand and volley.

At 4–4 in the third set, Kuerten saved five break points to hold serve. He closed out the tiebreaker when Kafelnikov sent a backhand into the net.

Kuerten took a 3–0 lead in the final set, twice breaking serve when his opponent double faulted.

Kafelnikov broke back once but failed to tie the set and Kuerten served for the match at 5–4, clinching victory when the Russian hit a backhand return into the net.

Kuerten won the French in 1997 and again last year, beating Kafelnikov in the quarterfinals both times.

He next plays No. 4 Ferrero, who eliminated Hewitt 6–4, 6–2, 6–1.

The 21–year–old Spaniard has one of the strongest records on clay this season, including a win over Kuerten in the finals of the Italian Open last month.

"I felt like I had nothing in my legs," Hewitt said after the loss.

No. 12 Clijsters and No. 14 Henin will meet on Thursday in their first Grand Slam semifinal.

Clijsters, 17, defeated Hungarian qualifier Petra Mandula 6–1, 6–3, closing the match with a crosscourt lob.

Meanwhile 19–year–old Henin eliminated Russian Lina Krasnoroutskaya 6–1, 6–2.

"I don't want to stop, having come so far," Henin said.

French Open Results

Women Singles Quarterfinals

(1) Martina Hingis (Swit) def. Francesca Schiavone (Ita) 6–1, 6–4.

(4) Jennifer Capriati (USA) def. (6) Serena Williams (USA) 6–2, 5–7, 6–2.

(12) Kim Clijsters (Bel) def. Petra Mandula (Hun) 6–1, 6–3.

(14) Justine Henin (Bel) def. Lina Krasnoroutskaya (Rus) 6–1, 6–2.


Men Singles Quarterfinals

(1) Gustavo Kuerten (Bra) def. (7) Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Rus) 6–1, 3–6, 7–6(3), 6–4.

(4) Juan Carlos Ferrero (Spa) def. (6) Lleyton Hewitt (Aus) 6–4, 6–2, 6–1.


Men Doubles Quarterfinals

Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (Ind) def. Tomas Cibulec and Leos Friedl (Cze) 7–5, 6–4.


Mixed Doubles Quarterfinals

Paola Suarez (Arg) and Jaime Oncins (Bra) def. Lisa Raymond (USA) and Leander Paes (Ind) 7–5, 6–1.

Virginia Ruano Pascual and Tomas Carbonell (Spa) def. Karina Habsudova (Slovak) and David Rikl (Cze) 6–3, 3–6, 7–5.