Originally created 05/29/99

Fernandez knocks out a wild Serena Williams



PARIS -- Serena Williams saved her best shot at the French Open for last, a crisp whack at a Perrier sign that summed up her frustration.

Whether the crowd took it as an attack on a symbol of France or a show of teen-age petulance, the shot sparked derisive whistles that accompanied Williams off center court after a 6-3, 1-6, 6-0 third-round loss Friday to Mary Joe Fernandez.

Williams was less perturbed by the whistles than all the reckless shots she hit in the match.

"Why would I care whether they whistled or not?" she said. "It's my own double-fault."

That nice malapropism fit Williams' day. There were the overheads she clunked long and wide, the volleys she punched 10 feet out, the groundstrokes she hit as if she were trying to drill a hole in the fence. She wound up with 42 unforced errors -- 15 more than Fernandez -- and six double-faults.

"I couldn't keep the ball in play," she said.

At 17, Williams had been one of the hottest players on the tour this year, winning titles in Paris and Indian Wells and reaching the final of the Lipton, where she lost to her sister, Venus. She came into the French seeded No. 10. But on this day, hardly anything worked in a horrendous final set against Fernandez.

"I was out of control," she said. "I had planned on doing very well here, even taking the title. I never even dreamed in my wildest nightmares that I would have went out in the third round.

"There was no excuse for the way I played today really. I should have been taken off the court and immediately asked to leave the facilities, never to return again."

Williams giggled when she said that, and no doubt she will be back many times to Roland Garros and produce more memorable tennis. She said she'll take from this match a simple lesson: "Come out prepared and be serious."

Fernandez was both. Off the tour much of last year following wrist surgery in 1997, the 27-year-old impressed top-ranked Martina Hingis when they practiced together in the morning.

"She wouldn't miss a ball," Hingis said.

Fernandez wasn't quite that perfect in the match, but she had moments that recalled her run to the French final in 1993. She mounted the greatest comeback of her career in that tournament, beating Gabriela Sabatini after trailing 1-6, 1-5 and facing five match points. Fernandez then upset Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the semis before losing to Steffi Graf in three sets.

"That pops up in my head every once in a while," Fernandez said, recalling how close she came to winning a Grand Slam title. She reached the Australian Open final twice, too, but remains without a major victory.

Next up for her is Sanchez-Vicario, the defending and three-time champion who advanced with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Irina Spirlea.

"We're going to have a lot longer rallies," Fernandez said. "I'm going to have to work a lot harder for the points."

In other women's third-round matches, Hingis beat Czech Kveta Hrdlickova 6-3, 6-4; No. 4 Jana Novotna downed Croatian Silvija Talaja 6-4, 3-6, 6-4; and No. 5 Venus Williams beat Australian Alicia Molik 6-3, 6-1.

In men's play, Andre Agassi came up with the shot of the tournament in beating fellow American Chris Woodruff 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the round of 16 and a matchup against defending champion Carlos Moya.

Moya, seeded No. 4, beat Sargis Sargsian 6-3, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3.

"To be smack dab in the thick of this tournament feels wonderful," the No. 13-seeded Agassi said. "I feel very confident."

Agassi took a perfect lob to the corner by Woodruff, hit it through his legs with his back to the net, and watched it whiz down the line for a winner.

"Do not try this at home," he advised.

No. 3 Patrick Rafter, trying to show that a serve-and-volleyer can thrive at the French Open, completed a suspended match from Thursday evening and advanced to the third round against clay-court specialist Nicolas Escude of France.

"It's a big relief," Rafter said after his 7-5, 6-0, 2-6, 6-4 victory.

Tim Henman, No. 7, tumbled out after leading two sets to love and 3-1 in the third against Alberto Berasategui of Spain, a 1994 finalist in Paris. Serving at 4-5 in the fifth, the seventh-seeded Briton netted his two final shots to give the Spaniard a 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 win.

Henman's compatriot, Greg Rusedski, had better luck, beating Davide Sanguinetti of Italy 6-2, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 to reach the round of 16 despite his own predictions that he'd go nowhere at Roland Garros.

After his match, Henman picked Marcelo Rios to win the title. A few hours later the ninth-seeded Chilean looked at the very top of his form as he beat Spain's Albert Costa, 7-5, 6-4, 7-5.

Alex Corretja, last year's runnerup, beat Spanish countryman Fernando Vicente, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2.