SPORT

Capriati overcomes Serena in a dramatic encounter

PARIS, MAY 31. Serena and Venus Williams were knocked out of the French Open quarterfinals within 30 minutes of each other on Tuesday.

Jennifer Capriati overcame an erroneous call by a linesman on match point and beat Serena 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the semifinals. Sister Venus was eliminated a half hour later, losing to Anastasia Myskina 6-3, 6-4.

``We're going to pack our bags and leave,'' Venus Williams said. ``There's nothing left for us here anymore.''

When Serena Williams failed to return a shot that skipped off the baseline, Capriati began to celebrate before realising her shot had been called out.

Umpire Pascal Maria overruled the call — correctly, as TV replays confirmed — and ordered the match point replayed.

Williams again hit a shot into the net, and Capriati resumed her celebration. The rivals traded smiles and kisses at the net before a gleeful Capriati bowed to the four sides of the centre court stadium.

``I don't even know what happened at the end with the call,'' Capriati said. ``I was just happy for him to say replay the point.''

Capriati, the 2001 champion, was joined in the final four by Myskina and Paola Suarez, both first-time Grand Slam semifinalists. Suarez, 27, beat Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3.

Myskina, 22, played steady tennis and waited for errors by the No. 4-seeded Williams. The No. 6-seeded Russian saved three break points in the final game, all on wayward backhands by Williams.

On the final point Williams hit a backhand wide.

No. 2-seeded Serena, who was sidelined for eight months after undergoing surgery on her left knee last August, appeared to favour that leg at times during the final set. She bent over after one errant shot, winced after another and declined to chase a Capriati drop shot that went for a winner.

The loss marked the second disappointing finish in a row for Serena at the French Open since she won the 2002 title. She lost a tumultuous semifinal last year to Justine Henin-Hardenne.

``This year I really made it tough on myself by not performing and making a lot of errors ... and by basically not doing anything on a professional level,'' Serena said. ``I was an amateur today.''

Trying to end points quickly, Serena committed 45 unforced errors. When she dumped an easy backhand into the net in the final game, she crumpled to the clay in dismay.

Usually the better server, Serena had five double-faults while Capriati hit only one.

The No. 7-seeded Capriati won the final three games. She twice came to the net behind deep returns to win points and broke serve for a 5-3 lead, and then coolly served out the match — sometimes a problem for her.

``It's about time, I think, that I won one of these matches,'' Capriati said. ``It's been a struggle for a long time to get through, because what would always happen was the same pattern — I'd be winning and then just let it slip away and not be aggressive.''

On a drab, damp 15-degree (60-degree Fahrenheit) day, the start of the match — first of the afternoon on centre court — was delayed 75 minutes because of rain. There were delays during the match of seven and 48 minutes, and occasional drizzle fell during play in a stadium that was more than half empty much of the time.

Where earlier in the tournament, parasols were used at changeover to protect the players from the searing sun, on Tuesday umbrellas were needed to keep the drizzle off the competitors.

And as the rain grew heavier the players were called off court, having earlier swapped breaks, to return six minutes later and resume play.

With Serena wearing a two-piece fuchsia outfit and Capriati in a red ensemble, the match was a clash of colour — and much more. Given the conditions, the quality of the rallies was exceptional at times.

The rivals parried mostly from behind the baseline, sometimes with spectacular results. One exchange left Serena draped over the courtside geraniums after she scrambled to retrieve a shot and slid off the court.

She won the point.

Capriati played her best tennis at the end of the first set, closing it with three consecutive winners, the last two off first serves by Serena. But Serena began to cut down her errors and won the next four games to take charge of the second set.

``In the second set, I started playing not to lose,'' Capriati said. ``In the third set I came out with a different mentality — just to play to win.''

Suarez, an Argentine seeded 14th, won the final 15 points needed in just 59 minutes to advance. She had been 0-2 previously in major quarterfinals. The 17-year-old Sharapova was playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, and her play was as sloppy as the weather. Of the 55 points Suarez won, 40 came on errors by Sharapova. Suarez hit just five winners.

Sharapova briefly rallied at the start of the second set and broke serve twice for a 2-1 lead. But as Suarez pulled away, Sharapova began to look increasingly frustrated and failed to chase some shots. The teenager's final errant stroke was a forehand wide on match point.

Paes-Martina duo ousted

The sixth-seeded pairing of Martina Navratilova and Leander Paes was beaten 7-5, 7-5 by the Indonesian-Argentinean duo of Angelique Widjaja and Lucas Arnold in the second round of the mixed doubles event.

Liberhan advances,

Rastogi loses

India's Tushar Liberhan rallied to beat tenth-seeded Woong-Sun Jun of Korea 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the second round of the boys' event.

However, the 12th seeded Karan Rastogi went down to Martin Fischer of Austria 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in an another second round encounter. — Agencies