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French Open is bringing the best out of Capriati

French Open is bringing the best out of CapriatiBy JEROME PUGMIRE, Associated Press Writer
June 2, 2004

PARIS (AP) -- Jennifer Capriati has never lost a Grand Slam final. The other women's French Open semifinalists have never even played in one.

Capriati, the 2001 Roland Garros winner and two-time Australian Open champion, plays Russia's Anastasia Myskina in Thursday's semis.

``Jennifer is a great player,'' said Myskina, who will be playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal. ``I know how much she wants to win right now. I just have to keep calm. I do believe I can beat her.''

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Myskina had not made it beyond the second round in four previous attempts at Roland Garros.

``Yeah, my dream was to win the first round here,'' she said, joking.

Capriati, a Roland Garros semifinalist in 1990 at 14, said she feels close to her best.

``I feel it's right up there, the kind of tennis I'm playing,'' she said.

Argentina's Paola Suarez, seeded No. 14, takes on No. 9 Elena Dementieva of Russia in Thursday's other semi. Both are in the last four at Roland Garros for the first time, although Dementieva reached the U.S. Open semifinal in 2000.

With the Williams sisters and Justine Henin-Hardenne gone, this year's French Open has an unfamiliar feel. For only the second time since the Open era began in 1968, none of the top five women's seeds has made the final four.

Henin-Hardenne, the defending champion and top-seeded player, lost in the second round. Kim Clijsters, last year's runner-up, did not participate because of tendinitis in her left wrist. No. 4 Venus and No. 2 Serena Williams lost in Tuesday's quarterfinals to No. 6 Myskina and No. 7 Capriati, respectively.

Tuesday's quarters marked the first time in the Open era that three of the top four seeded women were eliminated from a Grand Slam on the same day. No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo, the French hope, lost to Dementieva.

Serena is set to drop out of the top 10 for the first time since August 1999, when the next WTA rankings are released Monday. Suarez will make the top 10 for the first time ever.

``I don't think Venus or Serena are done,'' Myskina said. ``They're just not at their best level right now. But they will be back for sure.''

This is the first Grand Slam since the French Open in 2000 that neither Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne, Venus nor Serena has made the semis.

Capriati has beaten Myskina in five of their six matches. However, Myskina beat Capriati 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals at the Qatar Open in March. She went on to win the title and has reached at least the quarterfinals in seven of eight tour events this year. She takes a 22-7 record into her match with Capriati.

Suarez will make her Grand Slam semifinal debut against Dementieva, an Olympic silver medalist in 1996 when she lost to Lindsay Davenport. Suarez beat Dementieva 7-5, 6-3 at the 2002 Acapulco semifinals in Mexico, the only time they have met on clay. Dementieva leads 2-1 overall. Dementieva enjoyed clay-court success at Amelia Island, Fla., in 2003, beating Henin-Hardenne in the semis and Davenport to win the final.
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