Originally created 06/03/04

Gaudio extends Argentina's rule at French Open



PARIS -- Bloodied by a third-set spill but undeterred, Gaston Gaudio advanced Wednesday to the French Open semifinals by beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

The unseeded Gaudio joined fellow Argentine Guillermo Coria in the semifinals, with compatriot David Nalbandian yet to play the last quarterfinal match against Gustavo Kuerten.

"This is like a history event - an unbelievable week," Gaudio said. "Maybe an Argentinian guy is going to take the final, and it's going to be like a dream."

Four Argentine men reached the quarterfinals, a Grand Slam record. Paola Suarez of Argentina is in the women's final four and will face Elena Dementieva on Thursday.

Playing in the first Grand Slam quarterfinal of his career, the 25-year-old Gaudio rose to the occasion with a nearly flawless performance. His biggest stumble came in the second game of the final set, when he slipped and fell chasing a shot and scraped his knee on the clay.

Blood still trickled down his shin after the match, but his strokes were unaffected. The baseliner finished with 27 winners and just 19 errors, and he won 20 of 21 points at the net, playing serve-and-volley to close out two games.

"He was too good," said Hewitt, who was seeded 12th. "He's very confident at the moment, especially on this surface, and his movements are as good as anyone on this surface."

Gaudio won 11 consecutive points early in the second set to take control and needed less than two hours to complete the victory. He improved his career record in major events to 20-20 and will play the Nalbandian-Kuerten winner Friday.

Jennifer Capriati closed out a big match for a change Tuesday, advancing to the semifinals and ousting longtime nemesis Serena Williams 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

As often happens in Grand Slam events, Capriati won the first set and went ahead in the third. This time she hung onto the lead.

"I tried not to listen to those voices, you know, that sometimes come in my head - you know, the negative ones," she said.

Williams was joined on the sideline 28 minutes later by older sister Venus, who lost to Anastasia Myskina 6-3, 6-4. It was the first time the sisters lost in the same round of a tournament.

Capriati has three Grand Slam titles, including the 2001 French Open, but knows all about coming up short. Six times in the past two years, she has been eliminated from a major event in three sets, often after leading.

Last year, she was two points from victory 10 times in the U.S. Open semifinals before losing to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. Capriati had lost seven consecutive times when Williams pushed her to three sets.

"I have to give myself credit for not, you know, just giving up," Capriati said. "You have to take it like a fighter. You're going to get punched, and you've got to take the blows and just keep coming back. And that's why it just feels like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders."

With the Williams sisters eliminated, the seventh-seeded Capriati becomes the favorite in an upset-filled event. The highest-seeded woman remaining is No. 6 Myskina, who advanced with steady play that lured Venus Williams into 43 unforced errors.

Serena Williams had 45 errors against Capriati.

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

The back-to-back defeats for the first family of women's tennis reinforced the notion that the sisters' best results might be in the past. Venus and Serena combined to win eight of 11 Grand Slam titles through the Australian Open in 2003, but other players - including the champion to be crowned Saturday - will have won four of the past five major events.

"Now, of course, everybody believes at least that they can fight with them," Myskina said. But she cautioned that the sisters will be back.

"I mean, they were the best," she said. "They can be the best again. It's going to be little bit harder for them because I think right now more players believe."

The lineup for Thursday is a mite hard to believe: Capriati vs. Myskina, and ninth-seeded Dementieva against No. 14 Suarez. It's the first time since the 1978 Australian Open that none of the five top-seeded women made the semifinals.