Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Success is now left to Serena

Though not if Mauresmo has a say

The Associated Press

PARIS - It's been quite some time since only one Williams sibling was left to uphold the family honor in the late stages of a Grand Slam tournament.

Now, after Venus Williams' earliest loss at a major in two years, younger sister Serena faces a potentially tough match today against Amelie Mauresmo - who's trying to uphold a nation's honor as the last of 33 French men and women in the tournament. The fifth-ranked Mauresmo is the only player with victories over both sisters this year.

That shapes up as the most intriguing quarterfinal, although Russian fans have one all to themselves between Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova. They were childhood rivals more than a decade ago in Moscow and advanced Sunday with three-set upsets: Zvonareva over Venus Williams, Petrova over 2001 champion Jennifer Capriati.

The other matchups are 2001 runner-up Kim Clijsters vs. 2000 runner-up Conchita Martinez, and Justine Henin-Hardenne vs. Chanda Rubin.

Many watching today will wonder: Can someone other than a Williams win a major?

"I just think the players are trying to get someone else to win a Slam," Lindsay Davenport said. "I mean, it's not only Serena. She and her sister have so many - I don't even know what their record is. It seems like they've taken so many titles."

For the record, one sister or the other has captured eight of the past 11 Grand Slam titles, with five all-Williams championship matches. A successful defense here would make Serena the first player with five consecutive major trophies since Steffi Graf in 1988-89.

Martina Navratilova, for one, thinks the gap between the Williams duo and the rest of the circuit is shrinking.

"That aura of invincibility they had has definitely shrunk," Navratilova said. "I feel it in the locker room, just the way the players are talking. And I think you can see by how they're playing now against them."

That could be, but Serena still strides on court with the confidence befitting someone who has won 32 straight Grand Slam matches and is 34-2 with four titles overall this season. She thinks the only player who can beat her is ... herself.

"It's been that way for a couple of years now," she said. "Whenever I lose, it's not because the girl I lost to just played an outstanding match. It's normally because I'm making 80 errors, and just not doing the things I need to do."

Navratilova suggested Venus should get a new coach if she wants to overtake Serena.

"I don't know how motivated she is," Navratilova said. "I don't know how badly she wants to keep playing, how long she wants to keep playing."


Women's quarterfinals: Today, 8 a.m. ESPN2; noon and 8 p.m. ESPN.

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