Bartoli sounds so sweet - dosen't she?
Serena Williams looms for French teen qualifier
22 minutes ago
By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer
KEY BISCAYNE, Florida - In charming fractured French, 18-year-old Marion Bartoli neatly summed up the challenge of playing against Serena Williams (news - web sites).
"She win everybody," Bartoli said.
That's why the path to a title at the Nasdaq-100 Open is about to become a whole lot tougher for Bartoli, who has led a charmed life since arriving at Key Biscayne.
After winning two qualifying matches, Bartoli drew a wild-card entrant, a lucky loser and a qualifier in the first three rounds — and beat them all. She won again Monday when No. 7-seeded Lindsay Davenport strained her right hamstring in the second game and was forced to retire after losing the first set 6-0.
That gave Bartoli a berth in the quarterfinals Tuesday against defending champion Williams, who improved to 14-0 this year by beating Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan 6-0, 6-4.
"It's very exciting," said Bartoli, who hails from the small town of Retournac in central France. "Nothing to lose, just to enjoy to play against the No. 1 in the world."
As if to underscore the challenge she faces, the WTA Tour honored Williams in a stadium court ceremony Monday as its player of the year for 2002.
"Always some people say, `Serena Williams is unbelievable. She plays so well,'" Bartoli said. "But I'm going to see what is it really to play against No. 1."
Other quarterfinal matchups include No. 3 Kim Clijsters of Belgium against No. 9 Jelena Dokic of Serbia and Montenegro, and No. 4 Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium against No. 12 Chanda Rubin of the United States.
Monday's fourth-round results were a poor commentary on the depth in women's tennis. In seven matches, the losers won a total of 17 games.
Rubin notched the most impressive victory, beating No. 8 Amelie Mauresmo of France 6-0, 6-2. No. 6 Jennifer Capriati ended a strong run by American compatriot Sarah Taylor, winning 6-1, 6-0. Both matches took less than an hour.
In men's play, five-time champion Andre Agassi routed No. 32 Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 6-2, 6-0 in 58 minutes. Agassi's opponent in the fourth round Tuesday will be Australian wild-card Mark Philippoussis, who edged Thomas Enqvist of Sweden 6-7 (6), 7-6 (3), 6-3.
"It's time to step your game up as you hit this stage of the tournament," Agassi said.
That's good advice for Bartoli, who has enjoyed success before at Key Biscayne. She won the Orange Bowl (news - web sites) 16-and-under title here in 2000 and reached the 18-and-under semifinals in 2001.
At the Nasdaq she has yet to play a full match against anyone ranked in the top 90, but her showing will vault her into the high 60s next week's rankings, a career best.
Monday's match wasn't much of a test. Davenport said she first hurt her hamstring Sunday and aggravated the injury in the early going against Bartoli.
"She was playing well," Davenport said. "But I didn't feel like could do that much to combat it."
Bartoli employs an unorthodox playing style, hitting with two hands off both sides and boldly standing well inside the baseline to receive serve. She might be wise to wear a protective mask against Williams' 120-mph (193-kph) delivery.
Williams has followed Bartoli's climb in the rankings, in part because their fathers are friendly. Walter Bartoli, a doctor, first met Richard Williams at a tournament in Paris last year.
"I've seen her play a lot, actually," Serena Williams said. "I like to watch the young girls play. She's young, tenacious, enthusiastic — the way I used to be."
Williams smiled as she spoke, amused by her role as a wily veteran at the age of 21.