Originally created 06/02/04

Williams sisters stumble at French Open



PARIS -- Venus Williams can brag that she lasted longer than her sister at the French Open - by 28 minutes.

Williams again came up short in a bid for her first Grand Slam title since 2001, losing to Anastasia Myskina 6-3, 6-4 Tuesday in the Roland Garros quarterfinals.

The upset came less than half an hour after Jennifer Capriati eliminated Serena Williams 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

Because the sisters lost in the same round of a tournament for the first time, it will be 2001 champion Capriati against Myskina in the semifinals Thursday, instead of Williams vs. Williams.

"We're going to pack our bags and leave," Venus said. "There's nothing left for us here anymore."

The double blow to family pride came on a drab, drizzly day in the upset-filled event.

"I'm alive. I'm breathing. I'm healthy. Things could be worse," Serena said. "But, I mean, obviously I'm not happy."

Her defeat came to a chaotic conclusion. Williams failed to return a shot that skipped off the baseline on match point, and Capriati began to celebrate before realizing her shot had been called out.

Umpire Pascal Maria overruled the call - correctly, as TV replays confirmed - and ordered the match point replayed.

Williams again hit a shot into the net, and Capriati resumed her celebration. The rivals traded smiles and kisses at the net before a gleeful Capriati bowed to the four sides of the center court stadium.

"I don't even know what happened at the end with the call," Capriati said. "I was just happy for him to say 'replay the point."'

Capriati has now beaten Williams twice in a month after losing the previous eight meetings in their rivalry.

Joining Capriati in the final four were two Russians, Myskina and Elena Dementieva, and Argentine Paola Suarez.

Dementieva disappointed a partisan crowd by beating No. 3-seeded Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo 6-4, 6-3. Suarez won the final 15 points and beat Russian Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3.

At 27, Suarez is a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist. So is the 22-year-old Myskina, at No. 6 the highest-seeded woman left in the draw. She played conservatively while waiting for Venus Williams to misfire, and the tactic worked, with Myskina winning 69 points, 43 on Williams errors.

The No. 4-seeded Williams blamed rustiness after being sidelined by an ankle injury three weeks ago.

"I didn't have the preparation that I wanted, which is tough because you need to be physically ready to run, and you need to be consistent," she said.

Her No. 2-seeded sister, sidelined for eight months after surgery on her left knee Aug. 1, appeared to favor that leg at times against Capriati. In the final set, she bent over following one errant shot, winced after another and declined to chase a Capriati drop shot that went for a winner.

Williams said she was healthy but struggled in vain to find the groove with her serve and forehand.

"This year I really made it tough on myself by not performing and making a lot of errors ... and by basically not doing anything on a professional level," Williams said. "I was an amateur today."

Her mother and coach, Oracene Price, agreed.

"Serena," Mom said, "was totally awful."

It's the first time since the 2001 French Open that both sisters lost at a major event before the semifinals, fitting a pattern of surprises in this year's tournament. Andre Agassi was beaten by a qualifier ranked 271st, while top-ranked Roger Federer and defending champions Justine Henin-Hardenne and Juan Carlos Ferrero also lost in the opening week.

Serena Williams' loss marked her second disappointing finish in a row at Roland Garros since winning the 2002 title. She was beaten in a tumultuous semifinal last year by Henin-Hardenne.

Trying to end points too quickly against Capriati, Williams committed 45 unforced errors. When she dumped an easy backhand into the net in the final game, she crumpled to the clay in dismay. Usually the better server, Williams had five double-faults while Capriati hit only one.

The No. 7-seeded Capriati ran well, too. She played with her right thigh taped to protect a recent strain and occasionally limped after a point, but she seemed otherwise unaffected.

And she finished strong, winning the final three games. She twice came to the net behind deep returns to win points and broke serve for a 5-3 lead, then coolly served out the match - sometimes a problem for her.

"It's about time, I think, that I won one of these matches," Capriati said. "It's been a struggle for a long time to get through, because what would always happen was the same pattern - I'd be winning and then just let it slip away and not be aggressive."

On a gray, 60-degree day, the start of the match - first on center court - was delayed 75 minutes because of rain. There were delays during the match of seven and 48 minutes, and occasional drizzle fell during play in a stadium that was more than half empty much of the time.

Capriati played her best tennis at the end of the first set, closing it with three consecutive winners, the last two off first serves by Williams. But Williams began to cut down her errors and won the next four games to take charge of the second set.

"In the second set, I started playing not to lose," Capriati said. "In the third set, I came out with a different mentality - just to play to win."