Serena Williams may well go on to win a fifth consecutive Grand Slam singles title, but this time she will not be playing her sister, Venus, in the final.
The older Williams sibling, who has gradually diminished in Serena's shadow, was unable to match the power and determination of Vera Zvonareva, a sturdy 18-year-old from Moscow in the fourth round yesterday and was defeated, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, in two minutes short of two hours.
Having won only one singles title in her four previous tournaments this year, Venus seemed vulnerable, as shown in the second set of her second round match against Evie Dominikovic, an Australian ranked No 109 in the world. Zvonareva, No 21 on the WTA computer and the winner of the Croatian Open in April, raised her game and held her nerve after losing the opening set against Venus and deserved her place in the quarter-finals.
The final set was filled with long rallies as the impressive Zvonareva refused to be intimidated by her opponent's reputation. The Russian broke early, but was pulled back to 2-2, Williams lashing a forehand winner. The 22-year-old American held serve in the next game and had two break points for 4-2. Zvonareva continued to pump shots into the corners of the court, keeping Williams on the run, and managed to hold for 3-3.
Even then it seemed that Williams' experience of big-match situations would see her through. The crux came when Williams netted a forehand drop-shot on a game point serving at 4-4, and then played a backhand wide to leave a break point hanging. A furious rally ended with Zvonareva cleaning the baseline with a forehand drive.
The Russian served the match out, driving a forehand cross-court winner for 40-15 and then matching her opponent shot for shot in the concluding rally, which ended with Williams hitting a backhand wide.
Reflecting on her 12 double-faults among 75 unforced errors, Williams said: "I was really off. I've just got to go home and prepare. I don't think I had the right preparation for here. Basically, I wasn't able to do the things I wanted to. I should have come in to the net more on some of the floaters, but I didn't even think of coming to the net."
Asked to comment on some booing by Centre Court spectators, she said: "I hope they had some entertainment even if it wasn't the best match I ever played."
Even as Williams spoke, another upset by a Muscovite was taking shape on Court No 1, where the 20-year-old Nadia Petrova, ranked No 76, was en route to a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win against Jennifer Capriati, the former world No 1, the champion here in 2001. The two Russians will now duel for a place in the semi-finals.
Serena Williams, who beat Petrova in the fourth round here in 2001 and accounted for Zvonareva in the third round last year, is safely through to the quarter-finals, although she looked far from majestic yesterday against Ai Sugiyami in defeating the Japanese 16th seed, 7-5, 6-3, double-faulting eight times in the opening set.
France is due to close down tomorrow when Serena meets Amelie Mauresmo, the country's tennis heroine, who has advance to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the first time. Thousands of enthusiasts will try to find alternative means of transport to the grounds on the day of a national strike to see what may prove to be the most exciting women's match of the tournament.
Many of the women's matches in the opening week were so feeble and predictable that one wondered if some of players had taken industrial action, but yesterday was filled with perspiration and inspiration from start to finish. Mauresmo, the fifth seed, had one of the easier jobs, outclassing Magui Serna, of Spain, 6-1, 6-2.
Justine Henin-Hardenne, the Belgian fourth seed, had a busy 21st birthday wearing down the Swiss Patty Schnyder, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. In the quarter-finals, Henin-Hardenne will play the American eighth seed, Chanda Rubin, who edged past the Hungarian Petra Mandula, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Belgium's Kim Clijsters, seeded to meet Serena Williams in the final, won a topsy-turvy contest against Magdalena Maleeva, of Bulgaria, 0-6, 6-2, 6-0, and Lindsay Davenport's bad luck with injuries continued when the American sixth seed had to retire because of a bruised foot when trailing Conchita Martinez, of Spain, 6-4, 2-0. Martinez plays Clijsters for a place in he semi-finals.
The men's singles saw fourth-round wins for Andre Agassi, the second seed and Carlos Moya, of Spain, the fourth seed. Moya's quarter-final opponent is the unseeded Dutchman, Martin Verkerk.
Gustavo Kuerten, who is attempting to win the title for a fourth time, completed his third-round match, which started on Saturday evening, with a 7-6, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 win against Gaston Gaudio, of Argentina.
WEEKEND RESULTS FROM THE FRENCH OPEN
Third round: T ROBREDO (Sp) bt L HEWITT (Aus) 4-6 1-6 6-3 6-2 6-3; A AGASSI (US) bt X MALISSE (Bel) 6-4 7-5 7-5; J-C FERRERO (Sp) bt T HENMAN (GB) 4-6 6-2 6-4 6-2; A COSTA (Sp) bt N Lapentti (Ec) 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4; F GONZALEZ (Chile) bt S SCHALKEN (Neth) 7-6 6-3 3-1 ret; F MANTILLA (Sp) bt F Vicente (Sp) 7-6 6-3 6-3; J NIEMINEN (Fin) bt V Hanescu (Rom) 6-7 6-4 6-2 3-6 6-3; A CLEMENT (Fr) bt N Coutelot (Fr) 6-4 6-3 6-2; G KUERTEN (Br) bt G GAUDIO (Arg) 7-6 7-5 5-7 6-3. Fourth round: M Verkerk (Neth) bt R SCHUTTLER (Ger) 6-3 6-3 7-5; C MOYA (Sp) bt J NOVAK (Cz Rep) 7-5 6-3 6-2; AGASSI bt F Saretta (Br) 6-2 6-1 7-5.
Third round: K CLIJSTERS (Bel) bt P SUAREZ (Arg) 6-2 6-1; V WILLIAMS (US) bt S FARINA ELIA (It) 6-1 6-2; L DAVENPORT (US) bt N DECHY (Fr) 6-3 7-5; J CAPRIATI (US) bt J Vakulenko (Ukr) 6-1 6-2; C RUBIN (US) bt L GRANVILLE (US) 2-6 6-1 6-3; M MALEEVA (Bul) bt R Grande (It) 6-3 2-6 6-3; V ZVONAREVA (Rus) bt M Sanchez Lorenzo (Sp) 6-3 6-4; C MARTINEZ (Sp) bt T Pisnik (Sloven) 6-3 6-3; N Petrova (Rus) bt M Irvin (US) 6-1 6-1. Fourth round: S WILLIAMS (US) bt A SUGIYAMA (Japan) 7-5 6-3; J HENIN-HARDENNE (Bel) bt P SCHNYDER (Swit) 6-3 2-6 6-2; A MAURESMO (Fr) bt M Serna (Sp) 6-1 6-2; RUBIN bt P Mandula (Hun) 4-6 6-2 7-5; MARTINEZ bt DAVENPORT 6-4 2-0 ret; CLIJSTERS bt MALEEVA 0-6 6-2 6-1; ZVONAREVA bt V WILLIAMS 2-6 6-2 6-4; Petrova bt CAPRIATI 6-3 4-6 6-3.
Second round: M LLODRA and F SANTORO (Fr) bt R Sluiter and M Verkerk (Neth) 6-2 6-3; M BHUPATHI (Ind) and M MIRNYI (Bela) bt T Ascione and J Varlet (Fr) 6-3 6-4; F CERMAK and L FRIEDL (Cz Rep) bt D Bowen (US) and A Fisher (Aus) 6-4 6-4; P HAARHUIS (Neth) and Y KAFELNIKOV (Rus) bt X Malisse and K Vliegen (Bel) 7-6 6-4; Y El Aynaoui (Mor) and T Vanhoudt (Bel) bt W BLACK and K ULLYETT (Zim) 6-3 6-4; M KNOWLES (Bah) and D NESTOR (Can) bt H Taik Lee (S Kor) and V Voltchkov (Bela) 6-3 6-3; J EAGLE (Aus) and J PALMER (US) bt J I Chela and S Roitman (Arg) 6-3 6-2; L PAES (Ind) and D RIKL (Cz Rep) bt R Leach and B MacPhie (US) 3-6 6-2 6-1. Third round: L Arnold and M Hood (Arg) bt T CIBULEC and P VIZNER (Cz Rep) 1-6 6-3 6-4; M Bertolini (It) and S Prieto (Arg) bt F Lopez (Sp) and D Sanguinetti (It) 2-6 6-4 6-4; W ARTHURS and P HANLEY (Aus) bt El Aynaoui and Vanhoudt 4-6 7-5 6-3; B BRYAN and M BRYAN (US) bt A Clement and N Escudé (Fr) 6-1 6-2; BHUPATHI and MIRNYI bt CERMAK and FRIEDL 6-3 6-2; HAARHUIS and KAFELNIKOV bt LLODRA and SANTORO 7-6 6-7 6-4; G ETLIS and M RODRIGUEZ (Arg) bt KNOWLES and NESTOR 1-6 6-3 6-3; PAES and RIKL bt J EAGLE (Aus) and J PALMER (US) 6-2 6-0.
Second round: C BLACK (Zim) and E LIKHOVTSEVA (Rus) bt T Ashley and A Spears (US) 6-4 6-4; I Majoli (Croa) and I Tulyaganova (Uzb) bt T KRIZAN and K SREBOTNIK (Sloven) 7-6 6-2; P MANDULA (Hun) and P WARTUSCH (Aut) bt S Jeyaseelan (Can) and J Kostanic (Croa) 6-4 2-6 6-3; E GAGLIARDI and P SCHNYDER (Swit) bt B Lamade and M Müller (Ger) 7-6 7-6; J HUSAROVA (Slovak) and B SCHETT (Aut) bt C Barclay and R McQuillan (Aus) 6-2 7-5; D HANTUCHOVA (Slovak) and C RUBIN (US) bt P Tarabini (Arg) and C Vis (Neth) 6-2 6-4; E Daniilidou (Gr) and R Grande (It) bt E Callens (Bel) and M Tu (US) 4-6 6-2 6-2; S KUZNETSOVA (Rus) and M NAVRATILOVA (US) bt A Jidkova (Rus) and A Morigami (Japan) 3-6 7-6 6-4.
First round: E LIKHOVTSEVA (Rus) and M BHUPATHI (Ind) bt T Golovin (Fr) and M Bahrami (Iran) 6-4 6-2; C Morariu (US) and J Bjorkman (Swe) bt N Pratt and P Hanley (Aus) 1-6 7-6 6-4; K Srebotnik (Sloven) and B Bryan (US) bt W Prakusya (Indon) and D Adams (SA) 6-3 6-2; C BLACK and W BLACK (Zim) bt T Krizan (Sloven) and F Cermak (Cz Rep) 6-4 3-6 6-1; N Petrova (Rus) and P Haarhuis (Neth) bt E Gagliardi (Swit) and C Suk (Cz Rep) 6-1 7-5; A Pistolesi (Isr) and L Friedl (Cz Rep) bt J HUSAROVA (Slovak) and T CIBULEC (Cz Rep) 6-1 ret; D Chladkova and M Damm (Cz Rep) bt N Miyagi (Japan) and M Rodriguez (Arg) 6-2 6-2; P Mandula (Hun) and G Oliver (US) bt E CALLENS (Bel) and R KOENIG (SA) 6-4 6-0. Second round: P SUAREZ (Arg) and T WOODBRIDGE (Aus) bt D Chladkova and M Damm (Cz Rep) 5-7 7-5 6-0; L RAYMOND and M BRYAN (US) bt F Schiavone (It) and C Haggard (SA) 4-6 6-0 6-2.
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