Originally created 05/17/02

Serena Williams advances to quarterfinals



ROME -- Jennifer Capriati finished off Mary Pierce at the Italian Open before some fans reached their seats Thursday night.

Capriati needed just 34 minutes to win 6-0, 6-0 in the match between the last two French Open champions and join five other seeded players in the quarterfinals at this clay-court tournament.

The other seeded players advancing were No. 3 Kim Clijsters, No. 4 Serena Williams, No. 5 Justine Henin, No. 7 Amelie Mauresmo and No. 8 Sandrine Testud. But defending champion Jelena Dokic, seeded No. 6, was stunned by Anastasia Myskina 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Anna Kournikova lost to Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-3, 6-2. Kournikova, who is still looking for her first tournament championship, said she was slowed by a groin injury.

Pierce has dropped from No. 3 in the rankings to No. 172 because of a series of injuries since she won the 2000 French Open.

She entered the draw in Rome via the WTA Tour's protected ranking rule, which helps injured players enter tournaments when they return to action.

"She's just coming back and it's hard for her in these big matches," said Capriati, seeded No. 2 in Rome. "She made it very easy for me."

Williams used her strong serve and groundstrokes to overpower Denisa Chladkova 6-1, 6-2, running down nearly all of her opponent's shots in her gold sneakers.

The 20-year-old Williams reached the Italian Open quarterfinals for the third time in three attempts. She's never reached the semis in Rome.

Clijsters overcame No. 16 Tatiana Panova 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-1; Henin beat Anne Kremer 6-2, 6-4; Mauresmo defeated Ai Sugiyama 6-0, 6-2; and Testud eliminated No. 9 Silvia Farina Elia 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

In doubles action, 45-year-old Martina Navratilova teamed with Natasha Zvereva to beat Nathalie Dechy and Melein Tu 6-1, 7-6 (5).

"I served better today, so I'm happy," Williams said. "It doesn't matter who I play. I can take a three-month break and win a tournament."

Williams said her sister Venus, who pulled out of the tournament Tuesday with a wrist injury, probably will return to the court soon.

"I don't think she's going to miss the French," Williams said. The year's second Grand Slam tournament begins May 27.

Another top player out with an injury is Martina Hingis. On Wednesday, the Swiss player's doctor said the former world No. 1 might have to give up tennis because of joint injuries.

When asked about her chances at Roland Garros if some of the top players do not show up, Williams said she is ready no matter what happens.

"I'm a top player also, so I never see myself as losing," she said. "Maybe if I pulled out the field would open, but you have to be ready for everyone."

Clijsters had a prolonged argument with the chair umpire after a key point against Panova. At 5-5 in the second-set tiebreaker, Panova's shot was called wide, but the umpire overruled and forced the point to be replayed without coming down from her chair to inspect the mark.

Clijsters wound up losing the tiebreaker, but came back to roll through the decisive set.

Her anger "helped me a lot," Clijsters said. "I lost the set, but then I blocked it out."