Will Capriati survive to face Serena?

Updated: May 29, 2004, 6:20 PM ET
By Howie Schwab | Special to ESPN.com

Will Lindsay Davenport and Amelie Mauresmo meet in the quarterfinals with Jennifer Capriati and Serena Williams in another? Can Venus Williams keep going through the draw without a hitch? Is Maria Sharapova really Anna Kournikova with talent? Who the heck is Jie Zheng? These questions and more will get answered as all of the women are in action Sunday for the fourth round at Roland Garros.

  • Venus Williams leads the series with No. 23 seed Fabiola Zuluaga 3-0. Venus won her only meeting with Zuluaga this year, which happened to be on clay in Warsaw in the fourth round, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0. Zuluaga became one to watch out for, though, after breaking out at this year's Australian Open with a semifinal appearance.

    Capriati also leads her series against Francesca Schiavone 3-0. However, Capriati made seven double faults in her last match and then only won 26 percent of the points on her second serve. No. 17 seed Schiavone, who broke into the top 20 for the first time last year, is comfortable on clay.

    In the quarterfinals, either Capriati or Schiavone will play No. 2 seed Serena Williams or unseeded Shinobu Asagoe of Japan, who will meet for the first time ever. Asagoe, who turns 28 in June, prefers to play on hard court. Still, it sometimes is difficult for a power player such as Serena to find a rhythm early against a new opponent.

    The other half ...
    Davenport, who has yet to lose a set in this year's French Open, is trying to make the quarterfinals for the first time since 1999. Last year, she fell in the round of 16 to Conchita Martinez (Davenport retired in the second set). Clearly, Davenport hopes for a better finish.

    She plays Elena Dementieva of Russia, who is trying to make the quarterfinals of the French for the first time. Dementieva got a break in the last round when 19th-seed Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi had to retire in the third set of their match because of cramping.

  • It's hard to believe, but Mauresmo, who has lost just one set in her first three matches, is trying to reach the French quarterfinals for just the second time. She won only three games against Serena Williams in last year's quarterfinals.

    Standing in the way of Mauresmo is 21st-seed Magdalena Maleeva, who beat Meghann Shaughnessy in the third round.

    Mauresmo seems to be handling the pressure of her home Grand Slam better this year. She has taken the advice given her by former French champion Yannick Noah to isolate herself from outside distractions and the media hype. If these matches hold up to their seedings, that could set up a thrilling quarterfinal between Davenport and Mauresmo.

    The up-and-coming
    Sharapova, the 18th seed, beat fellow Russian and 10th-seed Vera Zvonareva in the third round. Sharapova has not lost a set in three matches so far, and her road has not been easy (she beat Rita Grande in round two). Her next opponent is Marlene Weingartner of Germany, who has knocked out two seeds already (No. 27 Eleni Daniilidou in round one and No. 8 Nadia Petrova in the last round).

    Sharapova loves to hit winners (28-12 advantage over Zvonareva). She has a great opportunity to reach the quarterfinals and even beyond.

  • Is Zheng the biggest surprise left?

    There are several other unseeded women left, but this 21-year-old from China had never won a Grand Slam singles match before this tournament. She gained confidence, however, by making the quarterfinals in doubles at the Australian Open earlier this year.

    Zheng is ranked 58th in the world and earlier upset Frenchwoman Emilie Loit in straight sets in round two. Her last match, against Tathiana Garbin (who upset Justine Henin-Hardenne), was not pretty; Zheng had 0 aces, six double faults and 54 errors, but she took advantage of break point opportunities (6-of-10).

    She is an underdog against 14th-seed Paola Suarez of Argentina. Part of the top-seeded doubles team (with Virginia Ruano Pascual), Suarez has rolled through three straight-set victories so far. Don't be surprised if she makes it four straight and sets up a showdown with Sharapova in the quarterfinals.

    Isn't it ironic?
    What if Tim Henman of Britain, bastion of the grass court, won the French Open before he won Wimbledon? Henman is one of five men remaining in the bottom half of the draw who has never advanced this far at the French Open. That makes for interesting tennis because these players have nothing to lose at this point.

    For the second time in this tournament, the Brit faces a French opponent. Henman rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat Cyril Saulnier in the first round. Now he faces doubles specialist Michael Llodra, who knocked out compatriot Julien Jeanpierre in the third round.

    Llodra, who has a pair of Grand Slam doubles championships to his credit (2003 and '04 Australian Open), had never gone past the second round of a Slam before this surprising effort.

    Henman, who suddenly sees his half of the bracket opening up until a potential semifinal showdown against Guillermo Coria, Carlos Moya or Tommy Robredo, won his only prior meeting against Llodra, in straight sets at Wimbledon last year. That was on grass, and this is on Llodra's turf -- clay!

    Spanish showdown
    Both fifth-seeded Moya and 17th-seeded Robredo are coming off impressive victories. Moya lost seven games in dispatching Raemon Sluiter of the Netherlands. Robredo was even stronger in dropping just four games against 11th-seed Nicolas Massu of Chile.

    Moya, who won this event in 1998, and Robredo, a quarterfinalist last year, each have dropped only one set so far in this tournament.

    Moya has dominated their head-to-head matches, winning all three in straight sets. This year, Moya has victories over Robredo in Miami and Sydney on hard courts. He also won their only showdown on clay, last year in Monte Carlo.

    Argentina vs. France
    Coria, a semifinalist in Paris last year, wants to go even further this time. He has yet to drop a set in this tournament. He dominated against Mario Ancic of Croatia, losing just six games and putting up 12 unforced errors. Frenchman Nicolas Escude, with his first fourth-round appearance in the French, is ranked 76th in the world. He is enjoying his best Grand Slam performance since making the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2001. But Coria is playing too well to falter here.

  • Juan Ignacio Chela is enjoying his most successful French Open. He has beaten a pair of Spaniards in the last two rounds (Fernando Verdasco and Alex Corretja), and now he meets the conqueror of Andy Roddick, Olivier Mutis of France.

    It has been quite a showing for the home team as three Frenchmen are in this half of the draw. They may not make it through this round, though.

    Mutis had never gone past the second round of a Grand Slam before this amazing run. He easily dispatched fellow countryman Fabrice Santoro in the third round, dropping just five games in the match. Mutis, who is ranked 125th, will have the crowd behind him, making this an interesting confrontation against Chela, who sometimes lets emotions get the better of him.

    Howie Schwab is a coordinating producer for ESPN.

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