Davenport foiled again at Roland Garros

Updated: May 31, 2004, 9:47 AM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- Venus Williams' body language worried her mother. At least twice, Williams swatted awkwardly at a ball, winced, then grabbed her stomach.

Perhaps there was nothing significant -- and Williams laughed off a question after her victory -- but it was reasonable to wonder, what with so many injuries at the top of women's tennis over the past year, and at the French Open on Sunday alone.

Jennifer Capriati strained her right thigh, though that didn't stop her from setting up a quarterfinal showdown against Serena Williams. Lindsay Davenport's right knee injury did contribute to her loss to Elena Dementieva, one of three Russians in the final eight.

Venus, meanwhile, suddenly found herself in a second-set struggle before getting past 23rd-seeded Fabiola Zuluaga of Colombia 6-1, 7-6 (3). That put Venus in the quarterfinals, a round better than she fared at Roland Garros in 2003, when she was hampered by a torn abdominal muscle.

"Let's hope it's not that old injury," Oracene Williams said after shuttling between show courts to see parts of both daughters' matches. "I thought she wanted to cry out there. She's had so much happen to her."

Venus couldn't play in the German Open final May 9 after twisting her left ankle in the semifinals, but any questions about how she'd hold up in Paris should have been answered by now. She has yet to drop a set while running her winning streak on clay to 19 matches, and said Sunday she feels as if she's in "definitely a lot better form than I was last year."

Serena, who could meet her sibling in the semifinals, said: "I'm pretty good at judging her form. ... She's dominating me right now in practice."

The ankle looked great in the third game against Zuluaga, when Venus sprinted from the baseline to get to a well-placed drop shot and swatted a winner. Two points later, however, Venus hit an off-balance forehand into the net, cringed, and put a hand to her midsection.

Serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set, Venus stopped short on one ball, deciding not to give chase. Then, after sending a forehand long, she doubled over briefly. She put a backhand into the net on the next point to get broken.

A couple of times, Venus delayed play while going to switch rackets.

"Venus looked a little more agitated in the second set," said Zuluaga, an Australian Open semifinalist. "She went to change rackets because of a 'problem' with her strings, but I think she wanted to catch her breath."

All in all, Venus controlled the tempo, generating enough power to keep most of her shots deep, strike an ace at 112 mph, and hit 28 winners. But 24 of her 31 unforced errors came in the second set.

"I let her back into the match," Venus lamented.

Serena didn't do anything of the sort against Shinobu Asagoe of Japan, compiling a 24-3 edge in winners during a 6-3, 6-1 victory. That put the 2002 French Open champion against 2001 titleholder Capriati, a 7-5, 6-1 winner over No. 17 Francesca Schiavone.

Capriati, who beat Serena at this month's Italian Open to end an eight-match losing streak to her, thinks she'll be OK for Tuesday's big match.

Apparently, Sunday's leg problem wasn't too much of a problem: Over the last 10 games, Capriati lost 11 points -- and three of those came when she double-faulted while serving out the first set.

"I should always get injured like that and go through it, because I was just more focusing on my leg, so I guess I played looser," said Capriati, who missed the Australian Open with a bad back. "It helped that ... it seemed like she didn't really try anymore."

Davenport couldn't fight the way she would have wanted against No. 9 Dementieva, who faces No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo next. Davenport hurt her right knee in the second round Wednesday, then aggravated it in the second set of Sunday's 6-1, 6-3 loss.

Dementieva, past the fourth round at a major for the first time since losing to Davenport in the 2000 U.S. Open semifinals at 18, was joined in the quarterfinals by countrywomen No. 6 Anastasia Myskina (who meets Venus) and No. 18 Maria Sharapova.

"Nothing is out of reach for me," said the 17-year-old Sharapova, who plays No. 14 Paola Suarez. "Every tournament I come into, I want to win it, and I know that I can."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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