Sunday, June 02, 2002

French Open notes

Chelsea Clinton on center court; Serena fashion; Pierce advances

Associated Press Writer

        PARIS — If Chelsea Clinton wants to avoid the limelight, front row at the French Open might not be the best place to do it.

        Shielded by a straw hat and sunglasses and seated beside her boyfriend, the daughter of former President Clinton became the focus of Center Court photographers — and appeared not to like that.

        Midway through No. 2 Marat Safin's match against Argentine David Nalbandian, the couple rearranged their seating, putting a companion between them.

        Despite the long lenses pointed her way, Chelsea hardly drew the same attention as her father, who attended last year's French Open and sat in almost exactly the same spot.

        Bill Clinton came to cheer on Andre Agassi, who was winning his quarterfinal against Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean. But it didn't work out too well.

        Agassi had won the first set 6-1 when Clinton arrived and got a lengthy standing ovation. From then on, Agassi's game fell apart. He went on to lose the next three sets, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.

        After the match, Agassi tried to dismiss the notion that Clinton had distracted him, saying he didn't even know the former president was there.

        Things worked out better this year.

        Agassi was wrapping up his third-round match on Center Court just as Chelsea and Co. arrived at Roland Garros. He won in straight sets. Safin won too, beating Nalbandian 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.

        Chelsea and her boyfriend, American Ian Klause, are studying at Oxford University. Clinton is in the second term of a two-year graduate degree course in international relations, and Klause is a Rhodes Scholar — just like her father.


        ON-COURT GLAMOUR: Gone are the days of tennis whites.

        Serena Williams' outfit for her third-round match Saturday was, perhaps, better suited for a night out in Paris than a Grand Slam tennis court.

        The dress was black and very mini, with a low decollete and a gold-lame sparkle.

        She had sparkling gold Puma sneakers to match.

        “I've been wearing those shoes all year,” she said, when asked if they were new. “I love wearing those.”

        Her dyed-blond hair was pulled back with a bejeweled headband. She didn't respond directly when asked if they were diamonds.

        “I'm a spangly type person. Spangly, dangly, you know,” Williams said, after a straight-set win over Janette Husarova.

        Always one to make a fashion statement, Williams' outfit for the first two rounds was a bright-green tennis dress with soccer-style knee-high yellow socks. The sneakers were bright yellow.

        If things go well, fans might see the green ensemble again, Williams said Friday: “I've been thinking about retiring the dress until the final.”


        COMEBACK: Mary Pierce, the 2000 French Open champion, is looking strong in her comeback from a series of injuries.

        Pierce needed only 47 minutes to beat Hungarian qualifier Aniko Kapros 6-3, 6-0 and reach the fourth round, making hers the fastest singles match of the day.

        Injuries to her ankles and spine forced the 27-year-old Pierce to miss most of last year's women's tour, including the French Open.

        As a result, Pierce's ranking plunged from No. 7 in the world in 2000 — when she won her second Grand Slam title — to 130th at the end of 2001.

        She came to Roland Garros as a wild-card entry and is currently ranked 132nd.

        So far, Pierce hasn't lost a single set, beating Irina Selyutina in the first round and Cristina Torrens-Valero in the second.

        Her next test is against No. 9 Silvia Farina Elia.

        Pierce joined No. 10 Amelie Mauresmo and three male compatriots in reaching the round of 16 — the best showing for the French since seven players made it this far in 1971.

        No. 10 Sebastien Grosjean and wild-card entries Paul-Henri Mathieu and Arnaud Di Pasquale give France its first trio of men in the fourth round since 1991, when Arnaud Boetsch, Fabrice Santoro and Guy Forget all lost at that stage.

        Gaston Gaudio's victory Saturday gave Argentina three men in the round of 16 — joining Mariano Zabaleta and Guillermo Canas — for the first time in 11 years.


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