Williams sisters left waiting for Wimbledon

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The Williams sisters, who have created records ever since they first emerged from the park courts of California, had a new, unwanted experience here yesterday, losing on the same day and in the same round of a Grand Slam championship.

The Williams sisters, who have created records ever since they first emerged from the park courts of California, had a new, unwanted experience here yesterday, losing on the same day and in the same round of a Grand Slam championship.

Within 30 minutes on a damp afternoon, both Serena and Venus were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the French Open women's singles. Serena, a winner here in 2002, lost to her American compatriot Jennifer Capriati, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, on Court Philippe Chatrier. Venus was defeated by Anastasia Myskina, of Russia, 6-3, 6-4, on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

Before the day was over, the French spectators, who have not been especially kind towards the Williams sisters, suffered the disappointment of watching Amélie Mauresmo, their great hope for the title, falter once again. The third-seeded Mauresmo, who won clay-court titles in Berlin and Rome en route to Paris, was defeated by Elena Dementieva, of Russia, 6-4, 6-3.

Having resisted the habit of double-faulting to self-destruction, Dementieva, the ninth seed, will play the 14th-seeded Paola Suarez, of Argentina, who eliminated the budding Maria Sharapova, of Russia, 6-1, 6-3.

The Williamses are yearning for the Wimbledon lawns, the scene of their last domination of a major championship, when Serena defeated Venus in last year's final. Since then they have both been beset by injuries. Both sisters missed September's US Open and although Venus travelled to the Australian Open in January, she was beaten in the third round.

Sadly, their contribution here in Paris amounted to little more than a costume drama, with Serena, in startling fuchsia, running away with the prize for most gaudy competitor.

If anything, Serena's dress made her a clearer target for Capriati, who continued where she left off at the recent Rome Masters by defeating Serena, the second seed, for only the second time in 10 matches.

Capriati, the winner of the French title in 2001, her year of redemption after failing to cope with the pressures of her stardom as a teenager, was as determined yesterday as the formidable-looking Williams was fragile.

Having broken for 4-3 in the opening set before a seven-minute rain delay, Capriati broke a second time, to love, in the ninth game. Williams responded by winning the opening four games of the second set.

Both players then had time to regroup during an hour's rain interruption at 5-1, Williams returning to level the match - a fair reflection of the number of errors on both sides.

Although Capriati's right thigh was strapped from the start of the match, she moved well and betrayed few signs of discomfort.

Her opponent, however, was clearly troubled after appearing to tweak a muscle below her left buttock while serving a double-fault on the way to being broken in the fourth game of the final set.

Capriati lost her advantage in the next game but Williams, increasingly having difficulty serving, was broken decisively for 5-3.

There was a fascinating cameo on match point. Capriati danced in celebration after landing a shot on the back of the baseline at 40-30, only for the line judge to call the ball out. The umpire overruled the linesman and ordered the point to be replayed. Capriati's incensed father, Stefano, meanwhile, was doing Donald Duck-like vertical take-offs in a guest box.

Jennifer turned round and said: "Calm down, dad." When the point was replayed, she lured Williams into netting a forehand.

Williams was not inclined to make excuses - "I didn't have a physical problem, none at all" - and confined herself to bemoaning the way she had played. "I just had a bad day with the serve," she said. "I made it tough on myself by not performing, by not doing anything at a professional level.

"I was an amateur today. I don't think I got any first serves in today, it's hard to win in those conditions. My forehand did not want to come either. It stayed at the hotel." Next week, Serena will find herself outside the world top 10 for the first time since April 1999.

The seventh-seeded Capriati was "happy and relieved" with her victory. She said: "I really earned it. I played better and deserved the win." She will play Myskina for a place in Saturday's final. The Russian sixth seed, who was appearing in her first French Open quarter-final, had lost her three previous matches against Venus Williams, the fourth seed.

Showing few signs of nerves, Myskina won the opening four games yesterday and did not flinch after a minor setback at the start of the second set, when Williams broke back after losing her serve in the first game. Myskina then broke for 4-3 and survived three break points when serving for the match at 5-4.

"I really fought," Myskina said. "Venus is not at her best level now. Usually she makes winners. Today she made more unforced errors."

Williams, who has been troubled by an ankle injury, did not disagree with Myskina's assessment. "I don't think she beat me today," the American said. "I just wasn't in a rhythm. Normally, against her kind of game, I'm going to do well, because she couldn't really hurt me.

"I maybe have lacked preparation ahead of this tournament and Myskina played well at the right times," Venus added. "I feel fortunate I was able to play at Roland Garros. I had a great time and I would have liked to take it further, but I am already getting prepared for Wimbledon.

"Serena and I are fighters and competitors," Venus added. "We won't sit back and accept those losses, we will be back in top form for Wimbledon."