Venus the sole sister restores Williams pride

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It was like settling a playground score when Venus Williams took out her fellow American Jill Craybas yesterday. You do not hit on little sister and expect to get away with it.

It was like settling a playground score when Venus Williams took out her fellow American Jill Craybas yesterday. You do not hit on little sister and expect to get away with it.

Craybas, the bottom feeder ranked No 85 in the world, had created the shock of the tournament in the previous round by condemning Serena Williams to defeat and a period of wildly emotional reflection. But the big-game hunting ended there. Venus, the champion here in 2000 and 2001, won the all-American encounter 6-0, 6-2 in an hour and three minutes.

The statistical nicety was that this provided her 400th career win. "I definitely like to do it a little bit for my sister," Williams said, "but mostly for me. It's probably a really big challenge mentally to play both Serena and I in a row. I guess I had a good position to be second sister."

It appears Venus will be the sole tennis sister around even if she manages to win through to Saturday's final. Serena was so dismayed by her removal from the competition that it seems she cannot bear to return to the scene of humiliation. "I don't think she's coming back to Wimbledon," Venus said. "I think she's done with the tennis for this year."

Craybas could not be disappointed, even in defeat. If she had dreamed this run in SW19 she would not have believed it. The woman who will be 31 on Monday, Independence Day in the United States, has lost 17 times in the first round of Grand Slams.

"I never felt like it was my match to get into," Craybas said. "She played great and she didn't give me any free points. She was just mentally tough today.

"She's very long. Not only at the net but at the baseline. There were a lot of rallies where I felt it might have been a more effective shot if she wasn't so long. She got a lot of balls other players might not have gotten to. But she just has that huge stretch."

It was a day of shocks in the women's draw in that there wasn't one. The only match which could be regarded as going against the form book was Anastasia Myskina's 1-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory over her closely matched countrywoman, Elena Dementieva.

That meant that four Russians made it through to the quarters if you include Maria Sharapova, which several of her compatriots do not. The champion, who has been based in the United States since she was nine, does not have much of the Urals about her vowels. Sharapova may have completed the route that tempts the Russians - from impoverished obscurity to wealth and fame - but now she has her own perfume brand and gold specks on the tennis shoes it appears she is no longer one of them.

Sharapova did have some friends around yesterday, though, as she dismissed Nathalie Dechy 6-4, 6-2. Their match was watched by the Wombles, the most local of tennis fans. Sharapova, the only teenager left in the competition, has now forfeited no sets and just 17 games in four matches. She has not lost a match on grass for two years.

"Technically-wise I don't think there was a big need of improvement [from last year]," she said after her 73-minute success. "Game-wise, I think I'm a much more experienced player. I feel like I manage it a lot better."

Maturity, it seems, has also arrived for Amèlie Mauresmo, at the advanced tennis age of 25. She was one of two Frenchwomen to go through, in company with Mary Pierce. Mauresmo had a sluggish start against Elena Likhovtseva, but she was running away like a train at the end of a 6-4, 6-0 scoreline.

Unlike at her domestic championships at Roland Garros, there is no ocean-bottom pressure for the No 3 seed here. It is why the former world No 1 and, like Kim Clijsters, one yet to win a Grand Slam, enjoys this occasion so much.

Mauresmo is the best athlete in the women's game but also one of the most susceptible when the mental screw is tightened. Yesterday though she was able to tidy up her tactics to reach a successful formula. "Sometimes, when you have too many different opportunities, you ask yourself too many questions," she said. "But I still enjoy the fact that I can play both, coming in or staying back. It's still a weapon."

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