Originally created 02/10/00

Serena Williams powers into quarters



PARIS -- Putting aside her disappointing Australian Open, Serena Williams powered into the quarterfinals of the Paris Open on Wednesday by beating Switzerland's Patty Schnyder 6-2, 6-2.

The top-seeded Williams, wearing a black and orange halter-top dress and orange sneakers, showed nimbler footwork and cleaner hitting than she did in Melbourne.

She had to work harder in the first set than the score indicated. Williams broke Schnyder in the fourth game but only on the fourth break point. She then broke serve again in the eighth game.

The second set was easier and quicker. Williams made the initial break in the sixth game on a crushing backhand crosscourt. The 18-year-old then wrapped up the match with a backhand return winner.

Williams won over the French crowd by answering two courtside questions in French.

"I'm back here in Paris because it's a great chance to practice my French," she said. "And I'm feeling excited because I just love it here. And I feel tres bien."

She entered Wednesday's play with only eight competitive matches since her U.S. Open triumph in September.

A back strain prevented her from playing in the season-ending Chase Championships in New York. She is also attending a fashion design college in Florida. In all, she was restricted to four matches at the end of last year.

"I went home and reevaluated after the Australian Open," Williams said. "I wanted to see where my career was heading and the changes I needed to make."

In other matches in the $537,000 tournament, France's Amelie Mauresmo, seeded fifth, defeated Ruxandra Dragomir of Romania 6-1, 6-1 in the first round. She next plays Sarah Pitkowski for a quarterfinal berth against Williams. Pitkowski ousted Spain's Magui Serna 6-4, 6-3.

Sandrine Testud, fresh from her final in Tokyo but not from her tiring return trip, was beaten 6-1, 6-2 by Anke Huber of Germany.

Testud, the sixth-seeded player, had broken into the top 10 for the first time two days earlier.

"I knew what to expect," she said. "I got back Monday evening after a 12-hour trip, and with an eight-hour jet lag and the accumulated fatigue of the tournament."

Even without the travel, Testud would have had a tough match. Huber holds a 4-2 career advantage over the Frenchwoman and was a finalist in this event in 1997.

"I really wanted to do well in Paris but frankly I never thought I'd do so well in Japan," Testud said.

Huber next plays Anne-Gaelle Sidot of France.

Julie Halard-Decugis became the first French player to gain a quarterfinal spot when she beat compatriot and qualifier Laurence Andretto 7-5, 7-6 (1).

Israel's Anna Smashnova downed Croatia's Silvija Talaja 6-4, 6-4 and will next play Romania's Irina Spirlea.