Monday, May 31, 2004
Serena, Capriati have scores to settle
By Howie Schwab
Special to ESPN.com
The Serena Williams vs. Jennifer Capriati quarterfinal on Tuesday (ESPN2, 8 a.m. ET) figures to be the most anticipated battle of the tournament to date. Williams has added incentive after losing to Capriati (6-4, 6-4) in the semifinals at Rome two weeks ago (Amelie Mauresmo beat Capriati in the finals).
This should be an intense match. Serena had an eight-match win streak against Capriati snapped in Rome. Now in the French quarterfinals for the fourth straight year, Williams hopes to repeat her success in the 2002 French semis, which was a three-set victory against Capriati.
So far, Williams hasn't played a seeded opponent in this year's French Open. She has lost one set -- to Maria Kirilenko, who actually led 4-2 in the final set before Serena rallied.
Capriati had to battle through a thigh strain in her last match, yet she played her most impressive tennis in the second set against 17th-seed
Francesca Schiavone, winning 6-1.
Venus Williams has four career Grand Slam tournament championships, but she has never won the French or Australian. She can move a step closer by knocking off a pesky opponent in No. 6 seed Anastasia Myskina of Russia. Myskina won her last match against 11th-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 8-6 in the third set.
This is Myskina's third straight Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance. She lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne in last year's U.S. Open quarterfinals, and to Kim Clijsters in this year's Australian Open quarterfinals. Myskina has never made it to a Grand Slam semifinal.
While the Williams sisters are in the spotlight, the French crowd will root for one of their own as third seed Amelie Mauresmo takes on ninth-seeded Elena Dementieva, who wrecked a potential Mauresmo-Lindsay Davenport showdown.
Mauresmo is in her third consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal. She lost to Kim Clijsters in the quarters of the 2003 U.S. Open and in a walkover to Colombia's Fabriola Zuluaga at this year's Australian Open. It is hard to believe, but Mauresmo has never made it to the French semifinals.
Dementieva of Russia is trying to make her second career Grand Slam semifinal appearance. In 2000, she fell to Davenport in the U.S. Open semis.
She has had some up-and-down moments in this tournament. When on, Dementieva can be dominant, as she was against an injured Davenport. But Dementieva also dropped a set 6-1 in the first round, and in the third round, she lost the first set to Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi 6-0 before getting a break when her opponent cramped up and could not continue in the third set.
Another Russian in the hunt
Rounding out the women's quarterfinal pairings are 14th-seed Paola Suarez against 18th-seed Maria Sharapova, yet another Russian. Neither player has lost a set yet, but Suarez has not faced a ranked opponent. A doubles specialist, Suarez prevailed in the round of 16 against China's Jie Zheng despite 44 unforced errors.
Suarez is trying to make her first Grand Slam semifinal. In her two prior Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances, she lost to Clarissa Fernandez (2002 French) and to Davenport (2003 U.S. Open). Confident Sharapova is in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam in her sixth major appearance. Lower-seeded Sharapova might actually be a slight favorite to win this match given her form so far.
What should be the best quarterfinal match on the men's side features third-seeded Guillermo Coria against fifth-seeded Carlos Moya.
Both players have been impressive so far. Coria hasn't dropped a set and only played 10 sets in four matches as his round of 16 opponent, Nicolas Escude, retired after being bageled in the first set. Coria is not overpowering with his serve with only nine aces in 10 sets, but his steady play has made him one of the favorites.
Moya, the 1998 French champion, has lost one set, in the first round against John van Lottum. Since then, Moya has been on a roll, including a straight-set triumph against fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo -- despite 44 unforced errors. Moya will have to play cleaner tennis to beat Coria, who has won 35 of his past 36 clay-court matches.
Coria has a 3-2 lead over Moya in five previous meetings. Coria won the last three, including the final in Buenos Aires on clay earlier this year.
Can Henman move on?
Britain's Tim Henman already has posted his best French Open result. He also has had a couple of five-set scares, against Frenchmen Cyril Saulnier and Michael Llodra. Henman dropped the first two sets in both of those matches before pulling off a Houdini act.
Henman is trying to make a Grand Slam semifinal for the fifth time in his career. He has made the Wimbledon semifinal four times.
Chela is in his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal, and he has been pushed to four sets in each of his last two matches.
How Chela handles Henman's serve could be a key. Henman made 19 aces in his third round match against Galo Blanco. Chela has broken the serve of his opponents 29 times in his first four matches.
Howie Schwab is a coordinating producer for ESPN.