Umpire sent home as Serena tries to keep focus

As Anastasia Myskina and the umpire Ted Watts yesterday both paid the price for losing their focus in the women's singles, Serena Williams admitted that her most fearsome opponent during the defence of her title is likely to be herself.

As Anastasia Myskina and the umpire Ted Watts yesterday both paid the price for losing their focus in the women's singles, Serena Williams admitted that her most fearsome opponent during the defence of her title is likely to be herself.

Myskina, who won the French Open earlier this month and arrived in SW19 as the No 2 seed, became the biggest casualty of the championships so far, losing to America's Amy Frazier in three sets. The Russian failed to impose herself after taking the first set and lost 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Watts also saw his tournament end prematurely in the wake of the mistake he made in Thursday's match between Venus Williams and Karolina Sprem. He erroneously awarded Sprem a point during the second-set tie-break and Venus went on to lose it, and the match.

Alan Mills, the championships' referee, said yesterday: "I have now discussed the incident with the chair umpire concerned and we have agreed it will be in the best interests of both parties [Watts and the All England Club] if he takes no further part in the event."

Watts' mistake was unprecedented here, certainly in terms of the stage (Centre Court) and the status of the player involved - Venus was the No 3 seed. But the incident will not necessarily spell the end of Watts' umpiring career.

In many ways, it would be a shame if it did. Watts has served the All England Club for decades, dating back to a gentler, pre-professional age when officials worked without pay. His late wife, Sylvia, did likewise, earning a posthumous award which was collected by Watts a couple of years ago.

Beyond that, it must also be asked why no one else - neither the players nor any of the other officials present (up to a dozen) - made any attempt to point out the blunder. No doubt that is something the All England Club is pondering, although not in public yesterday.

Certainly the Williams family have made no big outcry about a miscarriage of justice. Venus said she was too wrapped up in her game to notice what had happened. Serena said yesterday that while she was sad at her sister's exit, the tie-break mix-up was "just, you know, unfortunate".

In truth, Venus was on the ropes when it happened. An early exit, as at Roland Garros, seemed likely anyway.

After Serena progressed to the third round yesterday by beating the French qualifier Stéphanie Foretz, 6-0, 6-4, she said she would need to be on her guard against complacency.

"I think I can only pretty much beat myself these days," said Serena, who is looking for a third consecutive Wimbledon title and a fifth for the Williams family following Venus's wins in 2000 and 2001.

"For the first time I'm really feeling well about things physically." Of her performance against Foretz, she added: "I played very well in the first set, but I've still got a lot of things to work on, so I am getting better."

Serena's next opponent is Spain's Magui Serna, who progressed yesterday in straight sets against Britain's Jane O'Donoghue. Other notable winners included the No 4 seed, Amélie Mauresmo, of France, who eased past America's Jennifer Hopkins, 6-3, 6-3. Argentina's No 9 seed, Paola Suarez, and Russia's No 10 seed, Nadia Petrova, also advanced to the third round.

Progressing to the fourth round were the No 13 seed, 17-year-old Maria Sharapova, who beat Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-1, and the No 5 seed, Lindsay Davenport, who won the physical mismatch of the day against Tatiana Panova. Davenport, at 6ft 2in the tallest woman here, beat Panova, who was giving away more than a foot in height and 37kg in weight, 6-2, 6-1.

Gisela Dulko, who ended Martina Navratilova's hopes both in Paris and here, saw her own tournament end in defeat to Vera Zvonareva.

Navratilova's tip for the tournament is Mauresmo, who is also Virginia Wade's pick.

"It's good for me to know that these kind of players who have won this tournament and know how to play on grass are saying that," Mauresmo said.

She added that the Williams sisters' lack of dominance in recent times has helped to make tournaments more winnable for the rest of the field.

"Two or three years ago they were winning everything," she said. "Serena won the four Grand Slams in a row, with Venus in the final each time. So of course when you see players being beaten a little more often I guess it gives you more confidence to walk on court against them." Mauresmo is seeded to meet Serena in the semi-finals.

Serena was not looking so far ahead, spending more time in her post-match press conference talking about her fledgling careers in acting and clothes design.

She said that her "great scream" would make her a perfect candidate for a role in a horror film. For the moment she will concentrate on scaring opponents.

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