Venus cruises; Capriati survives upset bid

Updated: May 6, 2004, 12:57 PM ET
Associated Press

BERLIN -- Venus Williams overwhelmed Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi 6-3, 6-1 in the third round of the German Open on Thursday, showing the full range of her power game.

Williams ran her winning streak to 13 matches, slamming winners all over the court and landing her big first serve against the 16th-seeded Israeli at a clay-court tuneup for the French Open.

"It was definitely better than yesterday -- I was just trying to make things happen and I started attacking the net," the third-seeded Williams said.

The tournament's top-seeded player, Kim Clijsters, withdrew Thursday with a recurring left wrist injury that could force her to miss the French Open.

"I hope I can play the French, I don't know. It's a 50-50 chance," said Clijsters, twice the runner-up at Roland Garros. "It's hard to answer that right now."

Several other top players won Thursday, including No. 2-seeded Amelie Mauresmo, No. 4 Anastasia Myskina, No. 6 Jennifer Capriati and No. 10 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat No. 7 Elena Dementieva 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-4.

Williams struggled at times in her second-round victory over Eleni Daniilidou, but this time the American looked sharper. She needed less than an hour to eliminate Smashnova-Pistolesi, ending with a forehand that hugged the line.

"I felt good today. That's my game. I definitely needed to control the match," Williams said.

Capriati had a bit more trouble, forced to come back from a set down before getting past 17-year-old Russian Maria Sharapova 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.

Capriati lost in the third round at her last two tournaments.

"I was just playing not to lose. Then, in the middle of the second set, I started to loosen up," Capriati said. "It's been a long time since I won that kind of match. It was important to get my confidence back."

Capriati finally took control against Sharapova by holding serve twice to take a 3-0 third-set lead in a match filled with breaks.

"I wasn't mentally there for the third set," Sharapova said. "She's just more experienced and knows what to do in those situations."

The 22nd-ranked Sharapova was the youngest title winner on tour in 2003 and only the second wild-card player to reach Wimbledon's fourth round. She rose 154 places in the rankings last season.

"She's already a good player, but she can definitely get better at some things," Capriati said.

Capriati has been fighting back problems all year and was forced to skip several events, but said the problem is under control at the moment. The American wants to peak for Roland Garros, which starts May 24. She won the 2001 French Open for the last of her three Grand Slam tournament titles.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press